The edibles vs energy debate

RENEWABLES ON FERTILE LAND... The proposed solar farm location in Dookie. Photo: Supplied

LARGE-SCALE international renewable energy developer, Bison Energy recently solidified their interest in the region, finalising the last stages of their planning application requirements and signing a 30-year lease agreement on a property just outside of Dookie.

The site, if the proposed development is approved, will see another new solar farm housed within the Goulburn Valley region.

Projected to produce up to 4.95MW annually, the project will include the installation of sun tracking solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and ancillary equipment, with a projected harvest of enough energy to power over 1860 homes annually, reports the Japanese owned company.

The 16.28ha site, located 20km from the centre of Shepparton, on Cosgrove-Caniambo Road, is the latest land acquisition in the company’s growing portfolio of projects; which now spans several continents, including Japan, Europe and Australia.

Richly fertile and non-reliant on irrigation, the site has predominantly been used for cropping; and with recent reports showing the Dookie area recorded its highest ever yield for the 2020-2021 season; it would be fair to say, the lease has been granted on prime food-producing, agricultural land.

The new development is being met with opposition by the local community. Neighbour, land-owner and passionate regenerative farmer, Monica Sutherland, who with the support of local member Wendy Lovell, has lodged an e-petition in objection of the project, which now features over 350 signatures.

Mrs Sutherland’s explained her concerns, “The use of the site eliminates any opportunity to effectively farm the land, for 30 – potentially 40 years.

“We are regenerative farmers who strongly support regenerative energy. However, across the Goulburn Valley, there are around 800,000 panels already approved, with more local sites identified with applications submitted.

“We absolutely think solar is the way of the future, and that it should be installed on every Government building, school, railway station and new home in Victoria.

“Not however, on prime agricultural land, simply because it is made available at an affordable price and can reduce additional costs to the investor, due to its proximity and ease of access to overhead conduits.”