Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How is the Sundown Solar Farm project being assessed?
The project is being assessed as a State significant development (SSD), under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
As over 50 objections were received in the exhibition phase of the EIS, the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) is the consent authority for the project.
The project is also being assessed in accordance with the bilateral agreement made between the NSW and the Commonwealth under Section 45 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Q: What are the key steps and timeframes in the approvals process?
The key steps and timeframes for the Sundown Solar Farm are as follows:
- Submit EIS (2023);
- Public exhibition of EIS (Q3 2023);
- Receipt of agency advice and other submissions (Q3 2023);
- Lodge the Response to Submissions report (Q1 2024);
- Assessment by DPHI (Q2 2024); and
- IPC process (Q3 2024);
Assessment and determination by Commonwealth Government will follow in Q4 2024. Recurrent Energy is currently preparing the Response to Submissions report. Once submitted, this report will also be available on the DPHI major projects website.
Q: What opportunities are there for local job seekers, contractors, service providers and businesses to get involved in the project?
The project will create around 200 full-time equivalent jobs during the 21-month construction period, with up to 400 jobs during the peak construction period.
The project will directly employ two to three people during the operational phase. It is anticipated that most of the construction and operational workforce will be drawn from the region, to maximise economic benefits for the community.
Recurrent Energy will work closely with the local Councils and other key stakeholders to maximise local procurement and employment opportunities.
If you are interested in keeping up to date with employment opportunities, please register your interest at ua.moc.mrafralosnwodnus@nimda. More details will be available as the project progresses.
Q. What are the expected truck movements on local roads during construction?
The construction phase of the project is expected to last approximately 21 months, with the peak construction phase (stage 2) lasting approximately 14 months:
- stage 1: site establishment (including upgrade of access road) (approximately 3 months)
- stage 2: civil, mechanical and electrical works and deliveries (approximately 14 months)
- stage 3: commissioning and testing (approximately 4 months).
During the 14-month peak construction period the following maximum daily vehicle numbers will generally apply (as a worst-case scenario):
- 100 heavy vehicle trips per day
- 100 light vehicle trips per day
- 8 shuttle bus trips per day.
Q. What are the proposed road upgrades?
The proposed access road (Spring Mountain Road and Sturmans Road) will be widened to 8.7 metres (m) to facilitate two lanes, which will enable safer passing and improved accessibility. The upgraded access road will have water crossings to enable all-weather accessibility.
Q. What are the proposed intersection upgrades?
The key upgrades to the Gwydir Highway/Spring Mountain Road intersection include:
- an upgrade from the existing non-compliant sight distance to compliant sight distance;
- installation of a right turn traffic lane (type (CHR(S)) at the eastbound approach;
- installation of a Basic Left Turn (BAL);
- installation of an advanced warning signs at the eastbound approach on Gwydir Highway to warn that trucks will be entering/leaving the intersection; and
- installation of school bus stop signage and pedestrian refuges on the southern and northern sides of the Gwydir Highway/Spring Mountain Road intersection.
Q: Will the project result in a permanent change in land use?
No. The project will be a temporary and largely reversible change in land use at the site.
During operation, most of the land within the disturbance footprint will still be able to be used for the dual purpose of energy generation and sheep grazing during the operation phase of the project. This will be managed under an approved Grazing Management Plan.
With the implementation of the recommended land, soil and erosion mitigation measures, the Grazing Management Plan and the Pest and Weed Management Plan, it is expected that the land soil capability (LSC) post-rehabilitation will be equal to the current LSC.
The objective of the proposed Closure and Rehabilitation plan is for the land to return to its pre-existing land use.
Q: Will the project contribute to the spread of weeds and pathogens in the region?
No. An approved weed and pest management plan will be implemented for the duration of the project, to minimise any project-related biosecurity risks.
During construction, standard weed and pathogen management measures will include but not be limited to:
- minimising the extent and duration of disturbed soil;
- using washdown facilities to clean vehicles and equipment prior to arrival and when leaving the work areas;
- a requirement to revegetate exposed areas as soon as practicable; and
- ongoing monitoring and treatment of weeds onsite.
Are there any adverse health effects from solar farms?
No. There are no adverse health effects from solar or battery energy storage systems .
A preliminary hazard assessment conducted for the EIS concluded that exposure to electro-magnetic fields (EMF) created from the project will not exceed the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guideline levels for occupational exposure or for general public exposure levels.
Outside of exposure to EMFs, there are no known potential health impacts associated with proximity to the project infrastructure.
Solar is a passive form of technology, generating electricity without creating significant waste products, noise, or pollutants, making it an ideal energy source to help decarbonise Australia’s electricity system.
Q: How will project-related dust be managed?
Appropriate mitigation strategies will be applied to reduce potential dust generation caused by the presence of disturbed areas and by project-related vehicle movements. These measures will include but not be limited to the use of water trucks and the implementation of a policy to ensure disturbed areas are revegetated/covered as soon as practicable. Pavements will be stabilised with polymer or cement wherever practicable.
Dust suppression requirements during construction will take into consideration weather conditions and the likelihood of extended dry periods which could exacerbate impacts.
Recurrent Energy is also exploring further mitigation measures along the access route in consultation with local residents.
Q: Will the project impact the visual amenity of the area?
Visual assessments were undertaken from eight representative viewpoints selected based on their proximity to the development footprint, location to receptors, positioning on roads, topography, and presence of vegetation. The assessment determined that project infrastructure may be visible from one of the eight viewpoints. The assessment found that due to the presence of mature vegetation, varying elevation and landscape character, and the height of the PV panels within the development footprint, the majority of viewpoints will be shielded from viewing the site. The assessment predicts that none of the eight viewpoint locations will have a high impact rating.
Q: Has Recurrent Energy considered the risk of fires?
Yes. The bushfire assessment determined that the project can achieve compliance with the minimum requirements required by the Planning for Bushfire Protection 2019 (NSW Rural Fire Service).
A Bushfire Management Plan will be prepared for the project. The key principles for bushfire prevention and protection for the project will be:
- the provision of clear separation between structures and bushfire hazards in the form of fuel-reduced asset protection zones (APZs) and/or defendable space;
- appropriate access and egress for staff, contractors, visitors and emergency services;
- adequate water supply for fire-fighting purposes;
- suitable location of services and other infrastructure that pose potential ignition risk;
- suitable construction standards and design of buildings;
- suitable management plans for the provision and maintenance of mitigation measures as well as for appropriate emergency response.
These principles will be applied during construction, operation, and decommissioning.
If required by the conditions of consent, a Fire Safety Study will also be prepared for the BESS, in consultation with the Rural Fire Service and/or NSW Fire and Rescue.