Solar Energy Facilities Design and Development Guideline August 2019
The Victorian Government introduced the Solar Energy Facilities Design and Development Guideline August 2019 (Guideline) as a decision guideline for planning permit applications for renewable energy facilities . The key elements of the guideline:
- Introduce the Minister for Planning as the Responsible Authority (previously Councils) for permit applications for all renewable energy facilities and associated utility infrastructure above 1 megawatt generation capacity proposed for sites in declared irrigation districts.
- Outline the Victorian planning framework for the assessment of an application for a solar energy facility and its associated infrastructure in the context of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the Victoria Planning Provisions.
- Guidance on matters that should be considered at the site selection stage when identifying suitable locations for solar facilities. (Solar proponents are encouraged to engage with the relevant rural water corporation at the pre-application stage to discuss a site they are interested in.)
- They guideline is supported by a new provision in the Victorian Planning Provision on the protection of declared irrigation districts (refer VPP Clause 14.02-3S).
- The Secretary of the Department administering the Water Act will now be a recommending referral authority for permit application assessments for large-scale renewable energy facility developments proposed on sites within irrigation districts. This seeks to ensure that the siting and design of renewable energy facilities minimizes its impacts on the agricultural use and productivity of declared irrigation areas.
The Guidelines and the role of Water Authorities
The Guidelines identify the relevant irrigation districts and the Rural Water Corporations (RWC) that manage them. GMW is the manager of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.
The Guidelines encourage proponents seeking to locate solar energy facilities in an irrigation area to consult early with RWCs to determine the appropriateness of the location prior to lodging a planning permit application with the Minister for Planning. RWC’s in conjunction with DEWLP, have developed a two-stage application process to gather and exchange information with the relevant RWC to facilitate this decision making process for proponents.
Stage 1 - Pre-Permit Application Information – Solar Farms in Irrigation Districts
To initiate this process the proponent (with input from the landowner) should complete the Pre-Permit Application Information – Solar Farms in Irrigation Districts. GMW will provide to the proponents within 7 days of receipt of the application:
- A map identifying GMW infrastructure in proximity to and servicing the location.
- Information regarding modernisation of relevant infrastructure servicing the proposed site and indicative number of downstream irrigators.
Based upon the information provided, should the proponent decide to further investigate the suitability of the site for a solar energy facility, the proponent should process to Stage 2.
Stage 2 – Pre-Permit Application for Preliminary Assessment – Solar Farm in Irrigation Districts
The purpose of this application is to continue to facilitate engagement with proponents, prior to lodgement of a planning permit application. The proponent (with input from the landowner) should make application by completing the form entitled Pre-Permit Application for Preliminary Assessment – Solar Farm in Irrigation Districts.
GMW will undertake a preliminary assessment of the appropriateness of the site and provide the proponent within 28 days the completed form entitled Pre-Permit Preliminary Assessment – Solar Farms in Irrigation Districts. Should the proponent decide to lodge a planning permit application the response from GMW can form part of the planning permit application. Refer to the link for an example of the form and the information you can expect to be provided.