New community consultation guidelines for large scale solar projects

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Independent market research company Ipsos has produced best practice community consultation guidelines for proposed large scale solar projects.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the reports would be an invaluable resource for establishing and maintaining community support to operate solar projects in Australia.

“The results show Australians strongly support renewable energy and demonstrate the importance of involving and consulting locals,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Key industry participants have welcomed the best practice guidelines, which can help the solar industry more effectively communicate the economic, environmental and social benefits of solar projects to nearby communities.

“As large-scale solar becomes more common in Australia, companies can draw on these reports and the lessons learned during the construction of the ARENA-supported Nyngan, Broken Hill and Moree solar farms to enable more successful project development.”

ARENA provided Ipsos with $153,000 funding towards the report.

Ipsos Research Director Jennifer Brook said: “While supportive of large-scale solar energy facilities, community backing is often dependent on clear communication from project stakeholders about the efficiency of large scale solar power.

“Details of any potential employment opportunities, project timelines and information about the area of land required to establish a large scale solar energy facility are also important factors in establishing community support.  Early and ongoing opportunities for consultation and engagement with local communities about proposed large-scale solar projects is vital to ensuring communities fully support these projects.”

Ipsos also conducted an online survey, which found more than three quarters (78%) of Australians support large-scale solar energy projects.

Australians see large-scale solar energy as playing an important role in Australia’s future with more than three quarters (77%) believing that large-scale solar facilities can be a significant source of energy to help meet Australia’s energy needs.

There is also support for funding, with 60% agreeing that funding for large-scale solar facilities should be prioritised over funding for non-renewable energy sources.

There is also optimism that large-scale solar energy projects will reduce our impact on the environment, with 63% of Australians believing that increasing the number of large-scale solar facilities would reduce the nation’s carbon emissions and 53% believing large-scale solar energy projects have a positive environmental impact in general.

* Methodology: 1,197 adults living across Australia participated in an online survey. Fifteen focus groups involving 109 people were held in a variety of metropolitan and regional locations and 36 interviews were conducted with other community members and solar project stakeholders.