No-one disagrees that embracing solar farm developments in this region would be highly valuable.
However, their location needs to be closely considered, insofar as the current, but future and best long-term interests of the area’s land.
There is no question solar will offer a valuable addition to Victoria’s energy mix moving forward.
And this area, among the state’s best exposed to the sun, sits in a prime position to lead the way in solar development.
It is already happening.
Shepparton, formerly known as the ‘‘solar city’’, and surrounds have already received about half a dozen applications for significant solar developments.
These total $300million in development spend and have the capacity to produce an estimated total 200-plus megawatt capacity: an impressive amount of power production in the wings.
There will be jobs created during the construction phases of these facilities, and a few more ongoing operational jobs.
But, embracing this industry should not be surged forward with blindly.
And certainly not at the expense of prime agricultural land.
The region has long been known as the food bowl, and is often described as one of the state’s agricultural engine rooms.
These industries have underpinned prosperity in the Shepparton area and should not be negatively compromised.
No-one pretends determining these developments is an easy proposition, with a number of valid conflicting interests in the mix and matters to consider to ensure positive planning outcomes.
It remains far from crystal clear the specific impact solar facilities can have on food production and more certainty would be welcome in this discussion.
But among the questions front and centre in this space should be this question — what is the most productive use of the region’s prime agricultural land?
We remain supportive of the burgeoning solar farm industry this region can so positively benefit from.
Just so long as the region’s agricultural future is considered closely and the land selected for such developments takes this into account.