The Solar Farm will be built on private land used primarily for cropping and grazing. Although spread across a large land area, the panels will cover less than 50% of the area, won’t create disruption to neighbouring agricultural activity and will require little vegetation clearance. Vegetation screening to minimise visual impact will be planted around landholders’ and neighbours’ dwellings. Built adjacent to the project substation, the batteries themselves will occupy less than a hectare of land and will have a negligible visual presence or environmental impact.
Neoen will use a number of sources to ensure that the project’s impact on the local environment is minimal. Detailed impact assessments, including ecology, heritage, visual and transport are underway in preparation for a planning application. The impacts of a solar farm is also well understood due to the highly developed nature of the industry both nationally and worldwide. This knowledge together with the detailed local knowledge held by the relevant government agencies and private stakeholders will combine to reduce the project’s impact on the local environment to the minimum.
Human activity causes the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases. Such gases trap the sun’s heat in our atmosphere and upset the delicate balance of the Earth’s climate. Small changes in the temperature of the atmosphere cause accelerated melting of the polar ice caps and rising ocean levels, changes in rainfall patterns, destruction of delicate ecosystems such as coral reefs and increased extreme events such as droughts, hurricanes and cyclones.
Stationary electricity production is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. More than a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity. At present, Australia has the second highest greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electricity produced in the world, and among the highest levels of emissions per capita.
A crucial part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to replace fossil fuels with a natural, renewable source of energy such as wind or solar. Initiatives to combat climate change, e.g. the Kyoto Protocol, have allowed wind and solar to become the world’s fastest growing energy sources. Wind and solar will account for 64% of the new power generating capacity added worldwide over the next 25 years.
The addition of batteries to renewable projects helps to mitigate the intermittent nature of renewable sources by allowing excess power generated to be stored and dispatched into the grid during times of peak demand, such as in the early evening. Batteries also make the grid more stable and resilient to blackouts.
Benefits of Solar
The environmental benefits of the Culcairn Solar Farm to the community are outlined below.
Renewable electricity generated per year
More than 800,000-megawatt-hours (MWh).
Greenhouse gas emissions avoided
The proposed solar energy facility will reduce CO2 emissions reduced by more than 600,000 tonnes per year.
Average number of households
The proposed solar energy facility could supply enough power each year to service over 105,000 average New South Wales households.
Equivalent Number of cars taken off the road
A solar energy facility that reduces CO2 emissions by 600,000 tonnes a year is equivalent to taking approximately 180,000 cars off the road.
An equivalent number of trees that would need to be planted
Alternately, reducing 600,000 tonnes of CO2 a year is equivalent to the amount of carbon that would be locked up by planting 1.1 million trees.