Construction of the 100 megawatt Yarranlea Solar Farm, 50km west of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs in Queensland, has been approved.
The large scale solar farm is to be constructed in four stages over the 300 hectare site of cropping land. It will connect to the power grid using the existing Ergon Energy infrastructure and is designed to have minimal impact on the highly fertile soils of the Condamine River alluvium.
The project required preparing a Property Map of Assessable Vegetation (PMAV). The map was of an existing patch of remnant vegetation supporting an endangered regional ecosystem. This allowed more accurate definition of the vegetation boundary and resulted in an increase in the developable area for the project.
The Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) approved the PMAV and as the remnant patch was below the threshold for mapping under the Regional Ecosystem Framework, the vegetation was re-categorised as Category X vegetation. This provided an exemption to the proponent to clear the vegetation under the Vegetation Management Act 1999.
The vegetation also contains a small, isolated population of Belson’s Panic Homopholis belsonii, a grass species listed as threatened under Queensland and Commonwealth legislation. A Clearing Permit under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 was gained from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the project was determined to be a not a controlled action under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Ecology and Heritage Partners were pleased to have completed an Ecological Assessment Report within the study area to support the development application to Toowoomba Regional Council.
According to Nick Canto, Director of Yarranlea Solar Pty Ltd:
"(Ecology and Heritage Partners) provided sound, practical advice and outlined the options available to progress the development. (They) consulted with us frequently whilst navigating through the various ecological permits and approvals required to ensure that we were aware of the progress of applications and when a decision could be expected.
"Based on (their) work, we were able to increase the size of the developable land by approximately one hectare, and considering reduced shading impacts, this resulted in a 1.5MW increase in power output or enough power to supply an additional 650 average Queensland homes. We thank the Ecology and Heritage Partners’ Queensland team for their professionalism and assistance on this project."
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