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SA Planning Commission wants bigger buffers for wind, solar farms

Bigger buffer zones around new wind farms and greater regard for sound should be mandated, the SA Planning Commission says.

Minimum setbacks should also be required for large-scale solar projects, it says in a discussion paper proposing changes to planning laws.

“Despite delivering significant investment and skilled employment opportunities to our regional areas, the rapid development of renewable energy facilities has caused concern for some surrounding communities due in part to their sizeable scale and land requirements and environmental, visual and cumulative impacts,” the commission said.

The commission said the National Health and Medical Research Council had found that sounds 1.5km from wind farms were at similar levels to standard residential areas.

There was also no peer-reviewed evidence of direct negative effects of human physical or mental health.

But the commission said in the past few years, wind turbines had become taller – from 130m-145m at the start of this decade to 180m-240m now.

It proposes increasing the current buffer of 2km to 2km plus 10m for every metre above 150m of turbine heights.

It also asks for stronger powers for the Environment Protection Authority on regulating noise.

On solar, the commission recommends minimum buffers of 30m from neighbouring land, 100m from townships and sensitive rural living areas and 500m from conservation areas.

The commission is calling for informal feedback ahead of formal public consultation on the reforms.