SOLAR THREAT: From picturesque valley to industrial eyesore
A RENEWABLE energy revolution is staring Warwick straight in the face, but some residents won't welcome the $100 million solar farm bound for the Freestone valley.
Australian solar farm developer Terrain Solar intends to soak up the Southern Downs sun with a huge 154-hectare farm that will produce 170 gigawatt hours in a calendar year.
But Mount Tabor residents are flaring up at the proposal, saying the expansive farm would all but ruin the stunning countryside vista they paid a premium for.
Meryl Strand barely had six months to take in the view from her newly built Mount Tabor home before a letter appeared in her mail box, announcing the development.
"Instead of looking down at that beautiful tapestry of agricultural farmland changing colour through the seasons, now you will look at a static wall of industrial solar panels," she said.
But Mrs Strand said it was not just Mount Tabor residents who should be concerned.
"This valley is the gateway to the Southern Downs," she said.
"Everyone who travels in from Brisbane and Toowoomba drives over Allen's Hill and now, the first thing you will see is a big ugly field of solar panels.
"The region is known for it's countryside outlook, and this will just destroy that.
"There is plenty of unused, infertile land around this region, why wouldn't they be using that instead?"
Mrs Strand referred to the Southern Downs Planning Scheme, which states the region's "visual character" which includes a "patchwork of cropping, pastures, orchards and vineyards", should be "maintained or enhanced".
"It just seems to me the people who are doing the development are just trying to minimise their cost as much as possible to make a bigger profit, with no consideration to the residents," she said.
Terrain Solar director Simon Ingram said the site had been chosen for its high solar levels and close proximity to the Warwick Substation.
"It allows connection to the national electricity grid so clean renewable electricity can be generated for Warwick and even surrounding areas," Mr Ingram said.
The solar farm will produce enough electricity to power about 25,000 homes and reduce emissions in the electricity sector by 135,000 tonnes of co2-e per year.
But other residents have raised concerns about the impact to agricultural land.
Trudy Brown, whose property sits adjacent to the proposed development site, said she couldn't understand why the company would choose to place the farm on some of the region's most fertile agricultural soil.
"I know solar is necessary but I think they need to chose properties where it is not good agricultural land."
Mount Tabor home owner Thomas Shew was also concerned hot air would rise off the farm and be swept right into his front door.
Scientific studies have shown temperatures around solar farms can increase 3-4 degrees.