An $8.9 million solar farm planned for the city's outskirts has been opposed after divided debate at Orange City Council.
However, council does not have the power to determine the development application, which will now be heard by the state government's Western Regional Planning Panel.
At this week's meeting councillors opposed to the farm argued it was in the wrong place, would take up farming land with potential residential use as the city expanded, would create an unsightly entrance to Orange and would adversely affect neighbours' views.
I wouldn't mind living next to one. I've got them on my roof, I look at them on my roof.Cr Stephen Nugent
Councillors supporting the project said solar power was a key part of a renewable energy future and Orange should be involved.
They also said there were no planning reasons to oppose the DA.
One supporter, Cr Stephen Nugent, was warned by mayor Reg Kidd over interjections during the debate.
Before the debate started council received 59 public submissions opposing the farm and 21 in support.
Five people, four against and one in favour, spoke on the issue to council during the open forum period.
The solar farm is proposed for farmland about six kilometres from Orange.
Cr Kidd said there were 36 dwellings within two kilometres of the site.
"It's not what the community wants there," he said.
"There are more suitable places to put a solar farm."
He said Orange was not in the government's pilot Central West-Orana Renewable Energy Zone which is promoting solar and wind energy in the most suitable areas.
Cr Kidd said Orange was on the "lower end" of the rates of efficiency for solar power based on Bureau of Meteorology figures. However he said council did support renewable energy schemes.
Cr Nugent called on council to support the renewable energy project.
"It's the way of the future," he said.
Cr Nugent said the project would provide jobs, economic benefits and power for 2150 homes.
He said concerns by neighbours about their views being disrupted by a solar farm were insufficient to refuse the development.
Cr Jeff Whitton then said, "but he doesn't live next to one."
However Cr Nugent said he found solar panels and farms "attractive".
"I wouldn't mind living next to one. I've got them on my roof, I look at them on my roof," he said.
Cr Nugent said council's recommendation to the WRPP should include the views of all councillors.
"Why are we against renewable energy?" he said.
Cr Whitton said the solar farm would provide "zero" benefit for Orange and would affect residents.
"The neighbours have rights as well," he said.
Cr Whitton said it was disappointing due to government rules council could not determine the DA and instead "it will be taken out of our hands".
Cr Joanne McRae said there were no planning reasons to oppose the development.
She said it was "hypocritical" to say the land should be protected because it was arable farming land, but also say it might later be useful for residential development.
Cr Tony Mileto proposed an environmental bond be placed on the solar farm company to pay $10,000 a year over the life of the farm to ensure the land was rehabilitated once it closed.
Cr Kevin Duffy said the solar farm development did not fit in with council's planning for the area.
"I can't see it being in the community's interest that it goes out there," he said.
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Send us a letter to the editor using the form below ...