Large-scale solar is already the most divisive issue facing the Greater Hume Shire in recent memory, before any projects come across the government's desk for approval.
Neighbours once connected by a boundary are now firmly on either side of the fence.
"It's a very emotive topic and has fractured the local community," Culcairn local Rupert Cumming told a council meeting this week.
At the centre of the argument is whether land with agricultural capability should be used for solar.
Mr Cumming believes "the importance of this land for agricultural use is reflected in the significant uplift in land values".
"Rural land values in the Greater Hume Shire have increased by more than 90 per cent since 2016," he said.
"Gross revenue generated from the [Culcairn] subject land in 2019 was $1650 a hectare derived from hay, straw, grain and grazing.
"If multiplied over 1300 hectares and after the ABS economic activity multiplier, this equates to $140 million over 30 years."
The 1351 hectares of land that would be leased for the 400-Megawatt Culcairn project is used for a range of crops and pastures including wheat and oats.
Proponent Neoen states only 16 per cent of that land would be covered by panels, and like the developers of the Walla, Jindera and Glenellen projects, uses sheep grazing as an example of "dual use".
At Neoen's Numurkah farm, 300 Merino sheep graze, mainly to control weeds and grasses.
But farmers like Walla's Paul Lowe question such practices.
"As a fourth generational farmer and grazier, I question the management ability to maintain a productive pasture over a prolonged 30-year period of the proposed development," he said in his submission to the Walla Solar Farm.
"I believe it will not be possible to fertilize or spray weeds effectively ... which will eventually lead the development to be over-run with woody weeds.
"This will not only become unproductive for sheep grazing, but also [will create] a seed bank of weeds posing a problem for neighbouring properties."
Land value for farming disputed
Of 175 local objectors to the Walla and Jindera solar farms (submissions are still being collated for Culcairn), most raise concerns about the loss of agriculture.
But those who are among the 58 supporters say it's mostly hobby and lifestyle farming impacted.
Danny Phegan is one of two landowners who will lease land to FRV Services if the Walla project is approved.
He wrote in his submission that companies cropping on his holding were once offered the entire 1000 acres of the subject land, "but declined, citing the country was too risky".
"I employ these companies on a contract basis to crop the best 335 acres of it where I carry the risk of low yields, and the rest is sown to clover and rye for grazing sheep and cattle," he said.
"On the land offered to FRV for a solar farm we have retained grazing rights for sheep.
"Sheep grazing co-existing with solar farms is evident across Australia and across the world on operational sites.
"Our stock numbers of cattle and sheep won't reduce."
Mr Phegan wrote the "biggest myth" about the Walla proposal was that it would be located on "prime agricultural land".
"The land is rated predominantly [land class capability] four with some six. For factual clarity, prime agricultural land is rated one to three," he wrote.
"This is good land but hardly prime."
In the case of the Jindera project, the majority of 521 hectares of subject land is rated class three, but consultants claim solar won't alter the soil's nature.
In objecting to all three solar projects, Greater Hume Council has raised the area has been deemed "important agricultural land" in yet-to-be-released mapping from the NSW DPI.
Sharon Feuerherdt, a close neighbour to the Culcairn proposal, disagreed with Neoen's assessment of the site as class capability four.
"Council knows this land will be mapped as important agricultural land and therefore is constrained under the NSW solar guidelines," she said.
"We have proven the land capability with massive hay yields.
"Last year Australia imported wheat for the first time in 10 years - cumulative loss of agriculture needs to be considered.
"Appropriate places for solar are renewable energy zones in less productive places."
'On our doorstep'
Across the three projects, there are 38 non-associated landowners within a one-kilometre radius of the subject land.
Hundreds more are living within a couple kilometres.
And for some landowners, including Shai Feuerherdt, they are within an overlap of the one-kilometre radius of two projects - he will see Culcairn and Walla.
"This will absolutely devalue every home, business and farm within line of sight and the 'generous' tree lines being offered are just ridiculous," he said in a submission.
"It will take well over 15 years for them to block any of this industrial eyesore.
"I have spent much of the past 20 years working alongside many families in this area and I can see what these proposals have done to the local communities, families and businesses."
By the numbers
- Culcairn Solar Farm (400 MW) proposed by Neoen, on 1317 ha of class four agricultural land. 37 residences are located within 3 kilometres. Peak employment of 500 staff, up to 10 ongoing positions. 0.61 ha of vegetation and 99 trees to be removed. Access via Olympic Highway, Benambra Road and Weeamera Road, construction would take 16 to 18 months.
- Walla Solar Farm (300 MW) proposed by FRV Services, on 605 ha of class four agricultural land. 27 residences within 3 kilometres. Peak employment of 250 staff, 21 ongoing positions. Removal of 13.83 ha of vegetation and 53 paddock trees. Access via Benambra Road, construction would take 16 to 20 months.
- Jindera Solar Farm (120 MW) proposed by Green Switch Australia, on 521 ha of mostly class three and some class six agricultural land. 58 residences within 2 kilometres. Peak employment of 200 staff, up to 3 ongoing positions. Removal of 17.41 ha of vegetation and 11 paddock trees. Access via Urana Road, construction would take 12 to 18 months.
- Glenellen Solar Farm (200MW) proposed by CWP Renewables. Access via Walla-Walla-Jindera, Lindner and Ortlipp roads.Sources: NGH environmental impact statement for Culcairn, Walla and Jindera projects. The Glenellen EIS is yet to be released.
The views are extensive enough for some of the Jindera neighbours that shade-cloth is being considered as a screening "until proposed planted vegetation has established an effective screen".
One residence is only 80 metres from the Walla project's boundary, meaning the closest solar panel would be just 210 metres away.
"Even with the proposed mitigation of a 'set-back' and a vegetation screen, we do not feel it is fair that it is on our front door step," owner Bianca Schultz said in her submission.
Visual amenity, bushfire and flood risk, and traffic and environmental impacts will ultimately be considered by an Independent Planning Commission, due to Greater Hume Council objecting to the projects.
Mayor Heather Wilton believes the "urgency for renewable power can not be understated".
"Renewable energy is shunned by many, we talk about the loss of productive family land, [but] the actual greatest loss of farming land is due to lifestyle and hobby farms," Cr Wilton said on Wednesday.
"Much of the required infrastructure already exists, running through the middle of the shire, and that's why this area has been chosen.
"There are a lot of people who are concerned about it and I understand that.
"It's been a very divisive issue for this council and for this community."
'It's not fuel v food'
The same Tesla battery that has ensured South Australia has stayed black-out free would be installed at Culcairn.
Neoen operates the battery, and head of development Australia Garth Heron said one at Culcairn would "give us 24-hour renewables".
"It's going to firm up our renewable energy supply, and it's going to be doing energy arbitrage - soaking up excess solar during the day and pushing it out in the afternoon to meet peak demand," he said.
"And we're also going to be providing frequency control and ancillary services ... which is basically supporting the grid when things go wrong.
"This is basically what we're doing in South Australia.
"In the last two years since the battery was installed there, there have been no blackouts."
Mr Heron said four big power plants in NSW would be retiring in the next 20 years.
"What that means is to replace these projects, we need to build 10 times the current capacity of South Australia's renewable energy," he said.
"Renewables and batteries are not only good for the environment, but they're also cheaper.
"We've done some modelling on Culcairn and we think we'll be able to provide 24-hour renewable energy form this project, at a rate of about $65 a megawatt-hour, which is about two-thirds of the existing price."
The solar farm, which if built tomorrow would be the largest in NSW, has the capacity to supply sufficient clean energy to power the equivalent of approximately 105,000 homes.
Rochelle Schoff spoke to the importance of this energy production at this week's council meeting, on behalf of her parents Karen and Jonathan who will lease their land.
"Farming together with Neoen, we can develop clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and provide material support to our communities," she said.
"Out of the population of the Greater Hume Shire, the anti-solar campaign is a small minority that does not speak for the whole of the shire."
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Ms Schoff said the project was "not food versus fuel".
"There has been through the media a false binary created between agriculture and energy," she said.
"The Culcairn Solar Farm gives the opportunity to allow clean, renewable energy that supports sustainable agriculture.
"Coal is a finite resource and cannot provide energy to Australia forever."