Solar farm development: A guide to approvals and compliance

Understanding the complexity of solar farm development requires an understanding of diverse legislative practices across Australia. Being aware of best and current practice arguably enables us to adopt the most streamlined and effective approach to assessments and approvals.

The most effective approach often means adopting local adaptations, which focus on enhanced practices and benefits to local communities. Adverse impacts on local businesses, including increased competition for labour, materials and land, must also be weighed carefully against potential long-term benefits.

In response to these challenges, we have compiled a general scope for the development assessment and approval conditions that pertain to solar farm design in Australia. These headings are a broad guide, which may improve your understanding of what is required to secure a solar farm development approval.

Development plans

Before development, plans must be submitted to the responsible authority. These plans should be fully dimensioned, to scale and aligned with the endorsed plans. Alterations should not be allowed without written consent from the responsible authority.

Plans should align with the original application plans, but be modified to include:

  • Location, model, specifications, materials and finishes of solar panels.
  • Location, elevation, materials and finishes of any ancillary buildings or works that will minimise visual impact.
  • Non-reflective colours and finishes for all structures.
  • Underground placement of electricity cabling.
  • Design of proposed business identification signage.
  • Location and nature of permitted removal and retention of native vegetation.
  • Any staging of permitted development.


Development and permit obligations may be completed in stages according to the endorsed development plans.

Landscaping plan

The submission, approval and endorsement of a landscaping plan is required before development can begin. This plan should include:

  • Details of vegetation buffers that will screen solar panels.
    • Landscaping that will screen buildings and structures.
    • Ground cover management under solar panels.
    • Planting timing and the expected height of mature trees.
    • Maintenance program, including weed management.

Noise compliance

Noise from the renewable energy facility must comply with recommended noise levels in the area.

Traffic management

A traffic management plan must be:

  • Submitted before development starts.
  • Prepared by a qualified civil or traffic engineer.
  • Specify measures for managing traffic impacts.
  • Detail construction and transport routes.
  • Include a program for road inspection and maintenance.
  • Be approved by the road management authority.
  • Address environmental and social impacts.
  • Altered only by written consent and consultation.

Environmental management

The environmental management of a solar development typically requires:

  • An Environmental Management Plan to be submitted before development, prepared in consultation with DWER requirements.
  • Measures to minimise environmental impact to be included within the Plan.
  • Organisational responsibilities and procedures to be included within the Plan.
  • The endorsed Plan should be implemented to the satisfaction of the relevant authority.

The Environmental Management Plan should also include:

  • Construction Management Plan, which includes procedures for noise, erosion, dust and habitat protection.
  • Wildlife Management Plan, to mitigate the impact on specified animals or species.
  • Drainage and Stormwater Plan, detailing drainage design and stormwater management, as well as the impact onsite and in downstream environments.
  • Glare, Glint and Light Spill Management Plan, with strategies to minimise glare, glint and light spills.

Native vegetation

Native vegetation cannot be removed outside the ambit of permit conditions and legal requirements and removal must align with endorsed development plans. Prohibited activities within areas of retained native vegetation include:

  • Vehicle or pedestrian access
  • Trenching
  • Storage
  • Any other actions that may harm vegetation.

Emergency management

Before development can begin a Fire and Emergency Management Plan must be submitted, approved and endorsed by the responsible authority. The plan should be prepared in consultation with the fire authority, and should include:

  • Fire Management Plan
  • Bushfire Risk Assessment
  • Fuel Reduction
  • Maintenance Plan
  • Emergency Management Plan
  • Any other risk management measures required for the site.


A Complaint Investigation and Response Plan must be developed before development can commence. This plan must be approved by the responsible authority and should:

  • Address all construction and operational aspects and follow relevant safety standards.
  • Include a complaint investigation and resolution process.
  • Be implemented according to the relevant authority’s satisfaction.
  • Include a Complaints Register log with complainant details, incident specifics and resolution outcomes.


When a renewable energy facility is to be permanently closed, it must be decommissioned. This means all infrastructure, including solar panels and substation should be removed. Decommissioning should also involve:

  • Reverting the site to a pre-development state for agricultural or other use.
  • Keeping infrastructure only with the approval of the land owner and the relevant authority.
  • Ensuring a Decommissioning Management Plan is endorsed within two months of closure.
  • Ensuring the Plan is carried out according to the authority’s specifications and satisfaction.

Need support with solar farm approvals?

We handle solar farm development approvals for clients across Western Australia. Our team understands the complexities involved with securing approvals in the renewables industry and has the experience and knowledge to secure the outcomes you require.

For more information, please get in touch.

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