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Assessment framework for solar facilities in irrigation districts

The assessment framework gives authorities guidance on land uses in irrigation districts. It outlines the responsible authority and whom they might consult with.

The Minister for Planning is the responsible authority for these planning permit applications. This applies to proposed solar facilities that produce one megawatt or greater.

The Secretary of DEECA is a recommending referral authority. In this role, they recommend referral advice to the Minister for Planning.

The Victorian Government is committed to:

  • planning and managing sustainable changes within irrigation districts
  • protecting agricultural land serviced by irrigation infrastructure to ensure an irrigation district's viability.

Planning provisions

The Victorian planning provisions include state planning policy. Current planning provisions describe a range of strategies that authorities may consider.

Part 6A of The Water Act 1989 enacts the power to declare water systems. This power is an important planning provision for the Victorian government's commitments.

The Water for Victoria policy is considered when assessing land use requests in permit applications. It outlines strategies to meet planning objectives and manage sustainable change within irrigation districts.

Authorities also consider the Solar Energy Facilities - Design and Development Guideline.

It has key information on solar facility design and location that support renewable energy targets.

The Guideline outlines:

  • the decision criteria for appropriate siting of solar facilities in declared irrigation districts
  • the importance of proponents seeking help from DEECA early in the site selection phase.

Pages 6, 16-17 and 38 of the Guideline give good guidance to proponents for solar facilities in irrigation districts.

Avoiding land serviced by irrigation infrastructure

There has been over $2 billion in investment in modernising the irrigation infrastructure in Victorian declared irrigation districts. This supports the ongoing productivity and viability of irrigation districts. A return on this public investment requires maximising assets for agricultural production.

The Victorian Government’s commitments aim to ensure an irrigation district's viability.

Changes in water availability, regulations and global commodity markets create real challenges. Irrigation districts need to actively respond and adapt to these challenges through a range of strategies. Such strategies must also consider the needs of rural water corporations.

Rural water corporations play a central role in these responses and adaptions to change. Strategic adjustment of the irrigation infrastructure footprint may be needed. This ensures the infrastructure’s optimal use as part of their asset management and planning.

Guideline decision criteria for appropriate siting indicate to proponents and decision-makers the following three factors:

  • if a site is a serviced property
  • has a water use licence in place, and
  • the rural water corporation plans to retain the infrastructure (not decommissioned).

If this is the case, then it’s unlikely that the site is a suitable location for the development of a solar energy facility.
Pages 16 –17 and 38 of the Guideline provide additional information.

Permit application process information

Visit solar energy facilities to find out more about:

  • the permit application lodgement process
  • pre-application requirements.

Pre-application service

The Water and Catchments Group invites early engagement during the site selection phase. We will:

  • connect you with the relevant rural water corporation for initial site-specific information
  • provide advice (based on rural water corporation site-specific information) on:
    • appropriate siting considerations outlined in the Guideline
    • VPP Clause 14.02-3S Protection of declared irrigation districts.

Talk to us early in the site selection process if your proposed site will likely fall within a declared irrigation district. Early engagement is essential to the success of a project.

Page last updated: 12/09/23