A PROPOSED solar farm on Bathurst's outskirts has moved a step closer to construction.
The release in the past week of the response to submissions on the Glanmire solar farm means the project now moves to state significant development assessment stage.
The next stage will be a recommendation as to whether the 158-hectare solar farm should go ahead or not after a number of years of build-up and in the face of trenchant opposition from the Glanmire Action Group, which was formed to fight the project.
The almost 170-page response to community submissions document acknowledges the opposition to the solar farm, saying there were six public submissions received in support of the project during the exhibition of the environmental impact statement (EIS) and 131 public submissions received in objection.
"Submissions in support most frequently cited the Project's location, specifically its compatibility with agricultural operations," the document says.
"The Project's contribution to climate change mitigation was the second most frequently cited issue.
"Submissions opposing to the Project also most frequently cited the Project's location, specifically regarding concerns about the incompatibility of the Project with agricultural operations as well as adverse impacts on visual amenity."
The document provides Elgin's responses to concerns about the solar farm's position outside the state's renewable energy zones and the company's transparency, among other criticisms.
It also says approximately 150 full-time jobs would be generated at the peak of the solar farm construction period and, in terms of the effect on the land, only around four per cent "of the soil surface would require substantial levels of disturbance for concrete footings, access tracks and mounting piers".
The document says well in excess of 90 per cent of the development footprint "will not be permanently disturbed once the construction remediation is complete".
The Glanmire Action Group has been highly critical, in particular, about potential insurance problems for those who will neighbour the proposed solar farm.
The action group's Peter Hennessy has previously said that the solar farm block "basically has a north-south frontage of about two kilometres and a depth of about 800 metres, so it's much longer facing".
"The prevailing wind is from the west in summer; summer is the time of high fire danger. Summer is the time when one typically harvests grain," he said recently.
He said "the neighbours harvest grain, and when the neighbours contact their insurance company and just ask a simple question, they can't get insurance".
In terms of the insurance concern, Elgin says, in its response to submissions, that it will have "insurance in place to cover damage to neighbouring properties as a result of project activities".
"Consultation between Elgin Energy and several insurance providers has been undertaken to understand the potential for a neighbour's premiums to be affected by the development of a solar farm," the document says.
In a summary of key advice, the document says the Australian Insurance Council has "confirmed there is no further change to their initial statement, which was, they are not aware of any position of escalated risk focus being placed on neighbouring properties solely as a result of solar facilities being established" and the National Insurance Brokers Association "advised there is no evidence of increasing insurance premiums on sites adjacent to solar farms".
Glanmire Action Group lodged a 66-page reply after Elgin released its EIS for the project last year and the action group has said previously that it is also planning to reply to the company's response to submissions.
The group's Mr Hennessy was critical of the time it took for Elgin to complete the response to submissions step after the company was granted an extension of time to do so.
"It can't take six months simply to respond to our response," he said.
Elgin's managing director for Australia, Tim Averill, subsequently said that part of the reason for that delay was because the company wanted to better address submissions, including adopting "a much more intensive study" to address concerns raised into soil survey locations.
The Glanmire Action Group has also been critical of Bathurst Regional Council's position on the Glanmire solar farm, saying council appears out of touch on the matter given that more than 90 per cent of public submissions to the project EIS were against the solar farm.
The action group has previously contacted individual councillors about "the strength of community feeling" against the project.
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