Council delegates hear a balanced debate on solar farming

Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils deputy chair, Cobar Mayor Lilliane Brady, and chair Peter Shinton (Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council) at last week’s conference which was held in Cobar at the Services Club.

Cobar hosted the quarterly meeting of the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils last week, which also included a workshop on Solar Farming.

The association advocates for members and their communities on mining and energy related issues to ensure activities are conducted in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.

The association’s chair Peter Shinton (Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council) told The Cobar Weekly the purpose of the conference was to introduce delegates to the wider field of renewable energy sources.

“We invited councils who are embracing wind farms and solar farms and we also invited people who knew something about them. They are coming into our areas thick and fast and it’s about time we knew something about them and who to talk to,” Mr Shinton said.

Workshop speakers included representatives from councils who had experience with solar farming and energy developments, government bodies (the Department of Planning and NSW Government Energy Initiatives) and also solar sales representatives who gave information about how councils can reduce energy costs.

Mr Shinton said the variety of speakers at the workshop helped to balance the debate.

“You could tell by the questions asked during the workshop and some of the answers they got back, that people were really happy with the way it was organised.”

The meeting also gave members an update on the Joint Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) working party.

“It enabled us to understand the VPA processes that we are working on, and to get our template together with the Minerals Council so it can be rolled on to things like wind farms,” Mr Shinton explained.

He said currently solar farms don’t pay any VPA contributions.

“We all thought well, they don’t really upset the town for the short three of four months they are here.”

He said members were however re-thinking that after one speaker recounted their experience in a small town when 300 solar workers came in, saying the town was left short of water and the development had a large effect.