Solar farms and transmission lines 'soak up' prime farm land

'SHOW RESPECT': One Nation representative in the NSW Upper House, Rod Roberts says Transgrid must do better when it comes to consultation over its long transmission line, which passes through this area. Photo Burney Wong.
'SHOW RESPECT': One Nation representative in the NSW Upper House, Rod Roberts says Transgrid must do better when it comes to consultation over its long transmission line, which passes through this area. Photo Burney Wong.

Rod Roberts has decried the use of prime agricultural land for transmission lines and solar farms.

In a recent speech to parliament, the NSW Upper House One Nation representative said it was "disturbing and "completely unsatisfactory" that solar farms and transmission wires were "planned to criss-cross valuable farming country".

"No one is against the electricity grid being expanded; it is very important to this state, as is the increase in solar power production, although, I am on the record imploring this government to ensure reliable, affordable and readily dispatchable baseload power provided by coal is in place to firm up the reliability of the network," he said.

"The issue is where these large scale solar farms and transmission lines are being established. This infrastructure is being located and built on some of NSW's most productive agricultural land. I am talking about some of the best farming land in the state. This land is too productive and too valuable to be used in such a way."

He cited a solar farm at Culcairn, in NSW's Riverina, but also Transgrid's electricity transmission line - dubbed HumeLink - through the Kyeamba Valley, near Tarcutta, in the state's south west. Mr Roberts said both benefited from connection to the national freight network, favourable climate conditions and fertile soils, all of which were necessary to support a diverse agricultural sector.

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"(The) priority use should be to support agricultural identity and ensure a strong local economy that leverages from rural use," Mr Roberts said.

"...Surely there are other alternate options for this infrastructure. Surely there is more marginal country that has less productivity capacity that could house the requirements. There should be a genuine consideration of options and alternatives, not just choosing the lowest cost base but taking into account community, landholder and environmental concerns.

"Landholders should be treated fairly and with respect. The impact that these projects will have on their land values, how they live, farm and protect their homes and livelihoods must be taken into consideration."

He said while manufacturing in NSW had been allowed to deteriorate, he would not stand by and watch the same happen to "our prized agricultural sector."

Speaking to The Post, Mr Roberts argued the same principles applied to Goulburn and district.

He called on Transgrid to improve its consultation with landholders affected by its proposed transmission line.

"I would suggest there has been a complete lack of real consultation," Mr Roberts said.

"I have spoken to some of the landowners that they are dealing with and Transgrid hasn't even stepped on their properties. It is a faade of consultation and they should be paying them more respect instead of sitting in Sydney and doing a desktop study."

Transgrid's HumeLink transmission line will connect substations at Maragle, Wagga Wagga and Bannaby, near Taralga. Image sourced.

Transgrid's HumeLink transmission line will connect substations at Maragle, Wagga Wagga and Bannaby, near Taralga. Image sourced.

The company is proposing the 630 kilometres long, 500 kilovolt transmission infrastructure to allow new energy sources, such as renewables to come online, "unlock the Snowy Hydro Scheme's full potential and increase the amount of energy that can be delivered across NSW and the ACT".

It will connect substations at Maragle, Wagga Wagga and Bannaby.

Bannister and surrounding residents say they're in the dark about the easement's route and width. But they also fear its impact on their farming enterprises. But a Transgrid spokeswoman said the company had engaged with landowners in the area about HumeLink through face-to-face meetings, online interactive maps and community information sessions. The route of a 200m easement will be released in June. This will be refined to 80m by June, 2022.

Mr Roberts challenged the need for the infrastructure at all.

"It is due to the government's mad pursuit of renewable energy and having to transport it around the grid," he said.

"(The transmission line) is not aimed at enhancing what we have but dragging in new sources."

One Nation instead backs construction of Bayswater 2, a new coal-fired power station in the Upper Hunter. Mr Roberts said complete reliance on renewables and battery storage was "very good in utopia" but it wouldn't guarantee affordable, reliable power in the same way as coal, gas and nuclear sources.

He also criticised solar energy for the fact that discarded and decommissioned panels containing "toxic metals" went straight to landfill.

However the state government last year announced it would invest $10 million to divert end-of-life solar panels away from landfill. It invited expressions of interest in grants to run trial projects that "increased the collection, reuse and recycling of solar panel and battery storage systems."

This story One Nation representative claims solar farms are eating up farm land first appeared on Goulburn Post.