Culcairn farmers have appealed to local MPs and NSW Ministers about their long-standing concerns over a massive solar farm as the final approval of the project nears.
The Independent Planning Commission will hold a virtual public meeting in March as it prepares to make a decision on Neoen's $636 million, 350 megawatt (MW) solar farm with a battery storage facility.
The NSW Planning Department has addressed objections to the project and recommended it be approved.
"The proposed development footprint is approximately 892 hectares and was designed to largely avoid site constraints, including on-site watercourses and farm dams, remnant native vegetation, Aboriginal heritage items of high significance and to reduce visual impacts on nearby residences," planners said.
But Stephen and Sharon Feuerherdt, who have one of five residences within one kilometre of the project site, feel after two years their concerns haven't been heard.
"Our family has previously leased the productive land on which the Culcairn Solar Farm will sit," they wrote to MPs.
"Our fifth-generation farm will neighbour this development and our home will be surrounded by an 'L' shape of 900,000 solar panels.
"This development here will rival the largest NSW applications at a huge 900 hectares next to prime crop, fodder and livestock.
"NSW Planning told us that this development had the most objections of any State Significant Solar Development.
"It was implied to us through various sources that the limited [energy] market would cull some of these developments, but that now does not appear to be the case and our amazing farming area may look like the intro to a futuristic Blade Runner movie, ugly and industrial.
"Early on, we were advised by Ministers that important agricultural land mapping would protect agricultural land as constrained land in the Large Scale Solar Guidelines.
"Council were advised the area would be mapped as important, however, conveniently the mapping has continued to lay outstanding for over two years.
"Minister Adam Marshall was asked to visit our area as proposed by our local member Justin Clancy but this never happened."
Mrs Feuerherdt said a challenging and inaccessible planning process was now culminating in quick IPC approvals, with the 300 MW Walla project and the 120 MW Jindera project to go ahead.
The same studies developers have raised as proof of negligible impacts, such as a study about heat from the Shepparton Solar Farm, have been doubted by objectors.
"There is insufficient research on developments of this size," Mrs Feuerherdt said.
"Massive developments have too much risk and should be directed to arid land in renewable energy zones, not that on which you can grow 10 tonne per hectare fodder crops.
"This area is not in a Renewable Energy Zone.
"This area is agriculturally prosperous - when others are in tough drought, we are still reliably producing year-in and year-out, no irrigation required.
"Surely we should protect the best land - more than anything, when things get difficult, climate issues will affect food production.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"We have also asked Council to consider appeal options, should the development continue to be unsatisfactory, however we understand this may not occur due to the financial ramifications.
"We ask for your help, anyone's help, to stop this development, reduce the size of this development or at least obtain increased and reasonable mitigation such as an earth bank or increased numbers of trees."
Development consent recommended to the IPC include a traffic management plan, vegetation buffers that must minimise views within three years, and a plan for protection of Aboriginal heritage items.
Those wishing to speak at the public meeting must register on the IPC website by February 24, and online submissions are accepted.