Environmental and Planning applications approved for Solar Farm in Merredin
In 2016 our team was engaged to obtain approvals for the largest solar farm in Western Australia, located 260km east of Perth in the Central Wheatbelt. The owners required Planning (Development) approval, environmental approvals and ongoing assistance with compliance.
Here’s what you need to know about the Merredin Solar Farm
Solar Farm Facts
- The Merredin Solar Farm generates clean and renewable electricity into the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), which has a major impact on lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
- The Solar Farm has a generation capacity of 100MW, making it capable of powering approximately 42,000 homes per year.
- Approximately 360,000 Risen Energy panels (mounted on a single axis tracking system) harness energy from the sun, which is converted to alternating current (AC) before it enters a substation onsite.
- The Solar Farm was established on 462 hectares of rural land, and connects at 220KV to the Merredin Western Power Terminal Substation.
- Risen Energy (Australia) owns and operates the Merredin Solar Farm.
- Preparing the Planning (Development) Approval – via the Shire of Merredin and the Development Assessment Panel.
- Commissioning and managing specialist consultants – on key issues, such as traffic and bushfire risk assessment.
- Obtaining environmental approvals – including a Clearing Permit through the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER).
- Managing amendments – to the original approval to reflect changes in the project’s technical details.
- Assisting with clearance conditions – including commissioning reports and managing the Shire of Merredin clearance process.
Our team worked on Planning (Development) Approvals and Environmental Approvals concurrently, which expedited the overall length of the approvals process. As a result, both the environmental and planning elements of the approvals process wove together seamlessly.
Our team liaised with the Shire of Merredin to ensure the conditions of the Planning (Development) Approval were complied with. This relationship continued over a couple of years, as changes to technical specs in the original application were required.
We also liaised with DWER regarding Environmental Approvals to ensure applications complied with the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which exists to protect the environment and promote ecologically sustainable development.
Specialist consultants were another key group we engaged. These experts assisted with preparing reports on traffic, bushfire management and other important factors likely to impact the people and land in proximity to the Solar Farm.
Obtaining approvals for a major project in a rural area comes with its own unique challenges. In this case, a number of technical matters needed to be addressed. For example, renewable power was a ‘use not listed’, which meant complying with the scheme required negotiating.
Clearing vegetation in the Wheatbelt also presented some problems. These were overcome by discussing potential offsets with DWER and working closely with the regulator to ensure approval conditions complied with relevant Commonwealth law.
Finally, project ownership changed hands during the approvals process, which resulted in changes to technical specifications within the application. Our team liaised with the Shire of Merredin to ensure approvals were updated to reflect these changes.
The Merredin Solar Farm is now fully operational, with the Planning (Development) Application receiving approval in 2017. Our team continues to work with the owners of the Solar Farm to ensure compliance is maintained, and on other smaller applications, when required.
For more information on how we can support your renewable energy project, please get in touch.