Aussie NSW Farmers Call for a Ban on New Solar Projects

Essay by Eric Worrall

NSW Farmers, Australia’s largest farming organisation, is demanding a prepaid decommissioning fund for solar farms, to prevent farmers being left with the bill for decommissioning and disposal.

Farming lobby wants ban on new solar farms, as renewables resentment festers in regions

Sophie Vorrath 27 July 2023

Australia’s largest state farming organisation, NSW Farmers, is calling for a temporary ban on the construction of new large-scale solar farms in the state, amid concerns developers are not acting in the long-term interests of regional communities.

In a motion passed at the Association’s 2023 annual conference last week, NSW Farmers agreed to call on the state Labor government to place a moratorium on large scale solar developments until “planning deficiencies” around plant decommissioning and remediation are addressed.

“Current planning and approval provisions for large scale solar energy facilities do not take into account the long-term interests of agricultural land, rural communities and the rural landscape following the ‘decommissioning’ of the facility,” notes on the motion say.

“Agricultural land, rural communities and rural landscapes are at risk in the future and there should be no further development approvals granted until these planning deficiency issues have been fully addressed.”

The call from NSW Farmers follows a recent warning from Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, Andrew Dyer, that landowners may wind up lumbered with responsibility for cleaning up renewable power projects at the end of their lives, by default.

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The demand for a prepaid cleanup fund echoes existing arrangements in the mining industry, in which mining companies have to pay into a fund to ensure mining sites are restored after the mine is exhausted, even if the mining company fails.

Solar panels frequently contain toxic heavy metals, like lead and arsenic, which potentially pose long term contamination issues for farmers seeking to rehabilitate end of life solar installations as agricultural land.

Arsenic and lead can form highly mobile inorganic salts, but also readily form insoluble salts and stable organic chemicals, a dangerous and complex chemistry which could facilitate long term contamination of agricultural soil.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a Chernobyl style topsoil removal was required to completely eliminate the threat. Arsenic chemically mimics phosphorus, so chemically removing arsenic would also remove all the phosphorus from the soil. Lead is believed to mimic iron, calcium (lime) and Magnesium, so removing lead would strip other key minerals. At the very least during treatment the soil would likely have to be made acidic for a prolonged period, to try to leach the contaminants out of surface strata. Such treatment could lead to ground water contamination, which might in turn require extensive deep drilling and ground water strata barrier construction to remediate. Strong acidification would also likely kill the soil, leaving the soil devoid of beneficial bacteria and other beneficial organisms.

NSW renewable operators are already reeling from a recently announced grid “access fee”. An in my opinion entirely reasonable demand for massive upfront payments to cover land remediation after end of life could push some renewable projects well into the financially non-viable zone, even with generous government subsidies.

Given the debt levels being carried by some Aussie state governments, all these new charges and demands for money are likely only a prelude to the regulatory financial shakedown renewable operators, and anyone else who invests in Australia, are likely to face in the near future.

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Tom Halla
July 29, 2023 6:10 pm

The decommissioning fund is so sensible The Green Blob will never go for it.

Reply to  Tom Halla
July 29, 2023 7:17 pm

After a long career in oil and gas it’s incomprehensibe that these projects dont have SRC (site restoration costs) requirements. Another complete failure of the regulators.

Martin Brumby
Reply to  gdt
July 30, 2023 12:28 am

Ditto in coal.
It was insisted upon that post closure remediation, site clearance and landscaping schemes even include woodland management schemes of up to 50 years, with full financial provisions. (E.g.Selby Coalfield Spoil Heap at Gascoigne Wood.)

Of course, when the coal industry went tits up, partly because of these and other absurd financial penalties-in-advance, everyone lost interest in the sites, which today have just been left to their own devices.

Our beloved leaders don’t give two hoots about the implications of their mad decisions, even implications involving very serious risk to life, never mind site remediation – once it is THEIR responsibility and cost.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  gdt
July 30, 2023 6:04 am

“site restoration”

So where is the nation going to get the electricity if this solar panel power source is no longer available.

These solar facilities along with windmils are supposed to power society forever. How are they going to do that if the land is reverted back to agriculture? Something is not adding up here, if these solar facilities are only temporary.

John the Econ
July 29, 2023 6:51 pm

I’ve long argued that between 10 and 20 years from now, America will be needing another umpteen-billion dollar “Superfund” program to clean up all the detrius from the failed “green” projects we are now subsidizing.

Reply to  John the Econ
July 29, 2023 7:20 pm

The only surprise will be that the Ds will be blaming the Rs for pursuing all those scandalous “Green Energy” projects.

Reply to  spetzer86
July 29, 2023 10:29 pm

That won’t be a surprise, but I understand your point.

Martin Brumby
Reply to  spetzer86
July 30, 2023 12:34 am

At least you Yanks have some politicians who might be worth voting FOR.

In the UK, we have the various branches of the same Uniparty who apparently agree on anything “Important”. Difficult even to find a way to vote AGAINST.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Martin Brumby
July 30, 2023 5:04 am

How did a nation which produced so many brilliant political scientists in past centuries now end up with a Uniparty?

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  spetzer86
July 30, 2023 5:03 am

And they’ll rewrite the history books to present that case.

Reply to  John the Econ
July 31, 2023 5:17 am

“… between 10 and 20 years from now, America will be needing another umpteen-billion dollar “Superfund” …”

That’s a feature, not a bug. The grifters get to grift twice.

July 29, 2023 7:47 pm

The same ought to apply to wind turbines, INCLUDING the removal of foundations.

Reply to  bnice2000
July 30, 2023 1:04 am

And oil rigs and tankers.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Simon
July 30, 2023 5:06 am

Oil rigs at sea supposedly offer benefits to the local ecology.

Bryan A
Reply to  Simon
July 30, 2023 7:07 am

Solar, even when properly functional is a complete waste of space. It is the Lowest Density energy production available on a 24 hour basis relative to the size of its footprint per KWh produced. It requires the most clear land space availability for only 4 hours of near nameplate production on most favorable days, and is easily damaged or destroyed by bad weather.
Solar still requires Coal mining and extraction for it’s manufacture so you can’t go Solar and Leave Coal “In the Ground”. Current supply chains also make most solar users dependent on foreign countries with no qualms about Forced Slave Labor or belief in basic human rights.
Oil derricks on the other hand have an extremely small footprint relative to the amount of energy potential they recover over their useful lives. They can even be removed and relocated to other areas to produce even more useful high density energy.

Reply to  Simon
July 30, 2023 1:36 pm

They already do. I’m not surprised that you don’t know this.

Dennis Gerald Sandberg
July 29, 2023 7:53 pm

Does anyone actually believe that wind and solar is a viable energy source? Does anyone think that millions of acres of solar panels and wind turbine are going to be dismantled and replaced every thirty (30) years for the next 90 years instead of installing small scale modular reactors? Can anyone be that naive? Yes, millions of people. Incredible but true.

Reply to  Dennis Gerald Sandberg
July 30, 2023 4:35 am

Wind and solar will not work. That is clear because you can’t store electricity in any practical sense. Over its lifetime a battery can barely store and release as much energy as it costs to build it.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Dennis Gerald Sandberg
July 30, 2023 5:08 am

Many people aren’t so naive about it- but they will profit greatly from it.

Reply to  Dennis Gerald Sandberg
July 30, 2023 12:59 pm

I seriously doubt that “small scale modular reactors” are even viable for energy production. Fantasy pipe-dream clap-trap gobbledygook.

Huge slow-to-run reactors are far far safer and we have power distribution technologies now that are far far superior to hanging wires energizing the air.

July 29, 2023 7:56 pm

Too sensible to pass. It’s about time people are pushing back on the AGW narrative. You can’t hide a lie forever.

July 29, 2023 8:46 pm

Story Tip

Ford set to lose $4.5 billion on electric vehicles this year.

Reply to  MarkW
July 29, 2023 10:35 pm

The ban on ICE will change that.

On the other hand, both Nissan and Renault have recently advertised their new take on the ICE.

Nissans uses an ICE to drive electric motors to drive the wheels. whilst Renaults is a full ICE

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Redge
July 30, 2023 5:10 am

The ban on ICE may not change that because most people can’t afford them. We’ll keep our ICE cars going like the Cubans.

Paul S
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 31, 2023 1:03 pm

They will jack up the price of petrol making them impossible to afford

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Redge
July 30, 2023 6:24 am

I don’t know why you got down votes for that comment.

Hybrids that don’t have to be plugged in are a good idea. They don’t disrupt the transportation sector. Although, I personally would be very leery of the lithium batteries. But there are/were hybrids that successfully used nickel metal hydride batteries which are not prone to catching on fire. Toyota makes such vehicles, although I’m not sure that is continuing this year. I see that Toyota is promoting a new solid state battery they claim will be a gamechanger.

Cars that do have to be plugged into the grid are a bad idea on a large scale, considering our present circumstances.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 30, 2023 6:43 am

I don’t know why you got down votes for that comment.

Me neither, Tom, I’d prefer it if people pointed out what they disagreed with, but, hey, it would be a boring world if we all agreed about everything.

Cars that do have to be plugged into the grid are a bad idea on a large scale, considering our present circumstances.

Agreed, and not just our present circumstances.

Reply to  Redge
July 30, 2023 2:06 pm

I’d prefer it if people pointed out what they disagreed with

Which is why I dislike the up/down vote system. I simply don’t engage with it.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tony_G
July 30, 2023 6:44 pm

I do up votes. I don’t do down votes. I usually have something to say if a down vote is called for, so that substitutes for a down vote.

Reply to  Tony_G
July 30, 2023 9:44 pm

Just gave you an upvote 😉

Reply to  Redge
August 1, 2023 4:07 pm

I give down votes if someone has already made the obvious point. It would look stupid to cut and paste the previous comment. I tire of reading the same argument over and over.

That’s just me, I guess.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 30, 2023 1:01 pm

the cool thing about Nissan’s solution is its future battery technology friendly and its even possible to “eject” its existing battery pack in a fire-danger situation and simply drive the vehicle away from the battery. That and the 240v socket in the back that’ll let you run glamping equipment directly… XD

July 29, 2023 8:48 pm

Another way to put the brakes on is to demand zero toxic materials in the solar cells and there manufacture
And test every batch especially from the chi comms

John Hultquist
July 29, 2023 8:56 pm

Who pays if a residential building (home, shed) solar thing has to be removed?

Forrest Gardener
Reply to  John Hultquist
July 30, 2023 12:44 am

I’m in the process of replacing a solar system. The installer is removing and disposing of the previous system as part of the deal but there is no item on the invoice. YMMV

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Forrest Gardener
July 30, 2023 5:12 am

They built the cost into the full project cost. You’re paying one way or another.

Reply to  Forrest Gardener
July 30, 2023 9:42 am

Can I ask how long the previous system was in place, and why it needed replacing?
(a genuine question)

Geoff Sherrington
July 29, 2023 9:00 pm

For comparison, here is the ranger uranium Mines group, showing three dates on Google earth when rehab was uncer way on the number One orebody (lower right).The Number 3 orebody awaits infilling with the dirt and rock that was taken out. There are jokes about governments paying people for digging holes then filling the holes in again. These ones are about 100 metres deep.
comment image
It is easy to go overboard wioth rehab. The Ranger exercise is costing hungreds of millions of dollars in a remote location where, apart from a few small cattle stations and th tiny local population, nobody was interested until we discovered uranium there in 1969.
One has to ask if it better to spend $100 million to fill in some holes in the ground, or spend that money on a social cause like better education for our youngsters.
Think about it, NSW Farmers. Geoff S

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
July 29, 2023 9:36 pm

Rehabilitation is part of the project requirements and economics. The money would otherwise go primarily to profits with some to royalties, taxes etc. It’s a different situation in any case because in the article we’re talking about highly productive farmland.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  gdt
July 30, 2023 12:04 am

You missed the sarc tag:
“””we’re talking about highly productive farmland.

In Australia????
ha. ha. ha. ha.

Where the real waste and destruction is happening is near me and in the attached.
That is 120 acre solar farm
There’s another; just completed construction, just off that map in the top left corner at a place defined by ‘Sutton Bridge Power station’
A gas fired plant on the site of an abandoned (since the war) WW2 airfield

The purple blob is 10 acre field and part of an apple orchard running to 200 acre. Just that one farm, there are others on the photo amounting same again easily
In equal parts of because of Mr Putin, Climate Change and The Virus, last year certainly, no-one came to pick the apples.
As best you could see from the main road (yellow line on the map), 200+ acres of apples rotted.
(Wild birds had an epic feast but they barely dinted the waste)

Anyway, a Battery Energy Storage System is proposed for the purple blob

While if you visit the local supermarkets you won’t find an English Apple to save your life.
They;re all French apples in there,

That solar farm, 120 acres, would have been producing easily 600 tonnes of wheat annually.
The solar farm will kill it. Literally.
Soil bacteria and plants will die, the ground will dry out and go like rock.
Fortunately around here it should recover, after maybe 5 years after the panels go.
What happens on the BESS if those batteries ever catch fire will be worse than Chernobyl and by a very long chalk.
Next to a main road as well – these people are truly deranged.

Another epic waste of productive farmland is the grey square on top dead centre that photo
It’s a National Grid Switching Station

Why it needed to be put there is an absolute mystery – its one of the most sparsely populated parts of England there ever was/is. Nobody here to use that juice.
But the real madness in that placement is that none of the ground in that photo is any much above 3 metres above sea level.
See the River Nene along the left. We are 10 miles inland there and that river is entirely man made and is insanely tidal.
That is salt water you see there and it runs another 6 or 7 miles inland after that.

What would happen if a switching station working at 400+kV was inundated by salt water?

Ingleborough Solar farm.jpg
Reply to  gdt
July 30, 2023 1:55 pm

You increase the costs too much and the project will never be started.
As long as there is competition, most of the money would go to lower costs for the product being produced.
Even if it does go to “profits”, those profits go to investors, amongst the biggest investors are 401Ks and pension funds.

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
July 30, 2023 2:01 am

Geoff, if you’re interested I could email you a photo taken last month from the road in the NE corner of the site…shows how it looks now. I was there revisiting old worksite at El Sherana on South Alligator R. Contact is abrickellaaatttxtradotcodotnz.

Yes, quite crazy to spend all that money when I’m sure it could be put to better use for education or medical needs of the indigenous population nearby.

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
July 30, 2023 5:46 am

Why not just it here?

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
July 30, 2023 5:14 am

Who is paying that cost? Private enterprise or the tax payers?

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 30, 2023 1:57 pm

If it’s like other mining operations, it will primarily be private enterprise. Though to the extent that it lowers profits, it will the taxpayers as well.

Bryan A
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
July 30, 2023 10:32 am

You could grow poplar and other fast maturing trees, harvest them every ten years and gradually fill the hole with sequestered carbon, then cover the hole and wait. Nature will eventually make it coal.

Joseph Zorzin
July 30, 2023 5:02 am

When a solar “farm” was being planned next to my neighborhood- with full support of the local idiotic planning board, here in Woke-achusetts- a few of us discovered that the planning board wasn’t requiring much from the developer. We sued the town and that company with the result that the company had to post a substantial bond for the dismantling of the “farm” when the time comes; that the company had to offer a substantial $$$$ to the home owners next to it to enhance their landscaping to hide it; and that they had to push it back some from the homes. But the state ignored existing enviro laws regarding building anything next to a river and wetlands and ignored laws regarding rare and endangered species which were on the site- because- the state has now gone crazy over “green energy” and now has a net zero law by ’50. If I as a forester had gone on to that property do do a light thinning- a dozen state and local enviro officials would have pounced on me with complex orders to prevent damage to the environment and forest, all of which would have been total BS- but necessary to sustain their vastly overpaid jobs.

Coach Springer
July 30, 2023 5:23 am

I think we can absolutely count on extreme abatement protocols in the future. Not only do progressives cause the problems they claim to fix, control freaks that they are – they can’t help themselves.

July 30, 2023 5:39 am

A quick reference of grid watch shows you just how engineeringly incompetent solar energy is to power a nation
You get a few hours a day of some generation in summer months, depending on cloud cover etc, then nothing for at least 75% of the year
The capacity factor of wind is crap, solar is just laughable

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Energywise
July 30, 2023 6:33 am

“The capacity factor of wind is crap, solar is just laughable”

Yes, and these goofballs expect us to power the world with these things.

We sure are making it easy for the dictators of the world with our self-destruction over an unsubstantiated, unwarranted fear of CO2. Xi must be shaking his head in amazement at the stupidity of Western politicians. I know I am.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 30, 2023 2:12 pm

these goofballs expect us to power the world with these things.

I would like to see just one decent-sized city powered exclusively by wind and solar.

July 30, 2023 8:05 am

File in the folder labeled “Planned Obsolescence”.

Bruce Cobb
July 30, 2023 11:18 am

Wait. Don’t they care about saving the planet? What is wrong with these people?

July 31, 2023 3:01 am

“could push some renewable projects well into the financially non-viable zone”

They’re already non-viable. It’s only the massive subsidies, both direct and hidden through the RET, that allow these environmental disasters to be built.

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