The Bendemeer Renewable Energy Hub team have created a space for Frequently Asked Questions about the solar project asked by the community to be answered all in one place. The FAQ page can also be found in the Solar Fact Book, that has been developed for the solar project to give community members and residents a greater understanding of the project. These books will be updated as the projects progress.
An online copy of the fact book can be found here – Solar Fact Book
If you have any questions of queries regarding the solar project, please get in touch with the BREH team.
A: The NSW Government requires cumulative impacts of State Significant Developments to be assessed as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
These requirements are described in the Cumulative Impact Assessment Guideline (DPIE, 2021) and specified in the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs), which are the minimum requirements for the EIS to be accepted by the Department of Planning and Environment. This means that you cannot progress to public exhibition and approval of the EIS without addressing the cumulative impacts of the proposal.
The Bendemeer Solar Farm includes the following requirements in its SEARs:
An assessment of the likely impacts of the development on the environment, focusing on the specific issues identified including:
The Bendemeer Solar Farm EIS will include cumulative impact assessment of potential impacts including transport and traffic, biodiversity, noise, and visual.
Other solar and wind developments would include a similar requirement, including the proposed wind development for the Bendemeer Renewable Energy Hub.
A: The Bendemeer Solar Farm EIS will include assessment of all scientifically verified potential impacts to wildlife from solar developments during construction and operation. This will include any indirect impacts from installation of solar modules. Experienced and accredited ecologists experienced in renewable energy project impact assessments have been engaged to undertake bird impact assessments, the outcomes of which will be presented in the biodiversity study.
Solar photovoltaics, the technology proposed for the Bendemeer Solar Farm, does not utilise solar mirrors as would otherwise be the case for inherently different technologies such as concentrated solar power. The Bendemeer Solar Farm, like the vast majority of solar farms in Australia, will utilise solar modules (or panels) that are designed to as absorb, rather than reflect, as much light as much possible. Glass is utilised to provide mechanical protection and to also enable light to pass through onto the silicon solar cell surface to be converted to electrical energy. This glass is treated and coated with anti-reflective technologies to further reduce potential reflectivity. The EIS will include an assessment of any impacts associated with potential reflectivity and glare however we are not aware of any verified scientific studies showing that solar modules cause death or injury to diving birds of prey as a result of reflected light.
A: The NSW Government has several guidelines and policies that must be addressed when for assessing noise impacts of renewable energy projects.
In relation to the Bendemeer Solar Farm detailed modelling is currently being undertaken, with the results to be included in a Noise Impact Assessment, which is required as a part of the project’s EIS. Modelling is undertaken for noise sources during daytime and night time periods, noting that construction would be restricted to the following standard construction hours:
Noise modelling will predict the noise levels from construction, operation and traffic of the Bendemeer Solar Farm and compare with the allowable limits set by the NSW Government.
A: The visual assessment will be undertaken by recognised experts for visual impact assessments for renewable energy developments.
The visual impact assessment for the Bendemeer Solar Farm will be undertaken in accordance with the recently revised NSW Large Scale Solar Guidelines (DPIE, 2022) which places further burden of assessment than previously required.
The solar visual impact assessments will include a combination of:
Zone of visual influence – to determine the potential locations and dwellings in the area which may be able to see the solar farm.
Public viewpoint analysis – assessment of potential impacts from public locations.
Detailed dwelling assessments – where desktop analysis, modelling and site visits identifies dwellings they may have visual impacts. This may include undertaking photomontages at specific dwellings.
Assessment of impact significance – assessing the sensitivity (e.g. dwellings have high sensitivity) and the visual effect (how much of the solar or wind development can be seen) to calculate the overall potential visual impact.
Cumulative visual assessment – considers other proposed developments in the area.
Glint and glare assessment – assessing glint and glare from public roads and dwellings surrounding the solar development.
Mitigation measures – proposed mitigation measures to reduce visual impacts if determined to be required based on the level of impact assessment (e.g. visual screening).
A: There have been several studies undertaken both in Australia and overseas in regard to land and property values and renewable energy projects. A study completed by Preston Rowe Paterson in 2013 looked into the impact of wind farms on surrounding land values.
The NSW Farmers Association has also developed the Renewable Energy Landholder Guide, which includes a section on land values. The guides includes the following commentary:
“A 2016 review considered the potential impact of wind farm developments on nearby property values. The review used the best available data and traditional valuation sales analysis techniques, to compare the change in values around wind farms over time and qualitative information from a review of the international literature on the impact of wind farms on property values.”
The review concluded as follows:
“Based on the outcome of these research techniques, it is our expert opinion that windfarms may not significantly impact rural properties used for agricultural purposes. The literature review of Australian and international studies on the impact of wind farms on property values revealed that the majority of published reports conclude that there is no impact or a limited definable impact of wind farms on property values.”
A: The nearest point of the property boundary associated with the Bendemeer solar project is approximately 1.8km from the Bendemeer Hotel. There are 11 dwellings with 1 km of the project site.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will assess impacts on all dwellings (e.g. visual, noise) regardless of the distance described from the Bendemeer village or otherwise.
A: The Bendemeer Renewable Energy Hub is the flagship project of Athena Energy Australia (Holdings) Pty Ltd (Athena), a member of the Metis Group. Athena is committed to developing, constructing, and operating renewable energy projects across Australia. However, in the event project ownership is transferred, all land agreements have been structured so that any incoming owner will be legally bound by the same terms including those established for decommissioning and rehabilitation. Furthermore, the development consent conditions expected to be imposed for the project will be applied to the development directly, not the development company. Consequently, any existing or future asset owners will be bound by the same conditions of consent for the life of the project.
A: The Bendemeer Renewable Energy Hub team have been engaging with the Bendemeer community and surrounds since early 2022. As well as regular meetings with host landholders and neighbours to the project, the BREH team has also proactively engaged with local community groups, including the Bendemeer CWA and McDonald River Land Care Group. The project team have also been engaging with local business, Council and suppliers from the wider region, who are keen to learn about what opportunities this project may bring to the region.
In addition to providing updates to the community through our monthly newsletter, factsheets and website, we also continue to hold bi-monthly community information sessions at the Bendemeer Hotel. As the project progresses we remain open to discussion and feedback and encourage all members of the community to reach out to us with any questions either via email or call 0402 949 462 number. We can also arrange face to face discussions where necessary.
A: The BREH aims to minimise impact to project neighbours through impact avoidance, optimised design and the adoption of mitigation strategies where necessary. We have commenced consultation with a number of neighbours to the Bendemeer solar project to provide updates on the planning assessment process and seek feedback. This consultation will continue prior to, during and post development approval.
A: Renewable energy projects meet the definition of “electricity generating works” which are defined in Clause 2.35 of Transport and Infrastructure State Environmental Planning Policy (T&I SEPP).
Renewable energy developments in NSW are permissible with consent on rural zoned land (e.g. RU1). Industrial developments are prohibited on rural zoned lands and require the land to be zoned as industrial (either General Industrial or Heavy Industrial).
This is because the potential impacts during construction and operation of renewable energy projects would not be considered to result in the same level of impacts on the environment and neighbouring properties as industrial developments.
A: Absolutely. Renewable energy developments such as large scale solar can work in harmony with existing agricultural activities. Grazing livestock such as sheep has been proven time and again for solar farms in Australia. In fact, grazing is a key part of the operation and maintenance strategies for land and weed management and are intended to be adopted on the Bendemeer project.
A: As required on all renewable energy developments, post-development water flows must be equivalent to predevelopment flows in terms of both water quality, path and volume. Extensive hydrology models will be developed for the site to inform the design process to ensure these objectives are achieved after construction.
A: The project will be designed to comply the NSW Rural Fire Service Planning for Bushfire Prevention 2019, which requires asset protection zones to be established around the perimeter of the solar arrays, substation and battery compound. In these areas, vegetation must be strictly managed to a high standard for the life of the project.