The Minister for Planning is the responsible authority for planning permit applications for solar facilities that are 1 megawatt or greater.
The Secretary of DELWP (the department administering the Water Act 1989) is a recommending referral authority for permit applications for solar energy facilities within irrigation districts. The Secretary will provide referral advice to the Minister for Planning on referred permit applications in terms of irrigation infrastructure asset management and future planning.
The Victorian Planning Provisions includes state planning policy. This policy recognises the Victorian Government’s commitment to the following objective: To plan and manage for sustainable change within irrigation districts declared under Part 6A of the Water Act 1989. It also requires key policy documents, such as Water for Victoria, to be considered when assessing land-use requests in permit applications and outlines strategies to meet this objective.
The Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guideline (2022) (PDF, 1.2 MB) (Guideline) provides guidance on identifying suitable sites in irrigation districts and the importance of seeking assistance from DELWP early in the site selection phase of a project. The Guideline outlines information and decision criteria to ensure that solar energy facilities across Victoria are appropriately designed and located to support the achievement of Victoria’s renewable energy targets.
The Guideline states that ideally, a solar energy facility should be located to avoid land in a declared irrigation district that is serviced, or was serviced at 17 September 2019, by irrigation infrastructure managed by a rural water corporation, unless the infrastructure has been, or is planned to be, decommissioned.
Pages 6, 16 –17 and 38 of the Guideline provide guidance on proposed solar energy facilities in irrigation districts. Additional information is also on pages 10, 32, 34 and 36.
Avoiding land serviced by irrigation infrastructure
The Victorian Government’s policy on protection of declared irrigation districts, as reflected in the planning framework, is to protect agricultural land serviced by irrigation infrastructure to ensure the future viability of an irrigation district.
The Victorian Government has invested over $2 billion in modernising irrigation infrastructure across the state to support ongoing productivity and viability of irrigation districts. A return on this public investment requires the utilisation of these assets for the purpose of agricultural production.
This investment forms part of a suite of Victorian Government policies and programs that support irrigation districts to actively respond and adapt to a range of challenges, including those linked to changing water availability, regulatory reforms, and global commodity markets.
The cumulative effect of land use changes away from agricultural production in declared irrigation districts has the potential to undermine their viability and the State’s significant investment in modernising the irrigation infrastructure that supports these declared irrigation districts.
Rural water corporations need to be able to strategically adjust the irrigation infrastructure footprint to optimise their services, based on a whole-of-system asset management and planning perspective. Ad hoc land-use change away from irrigated agriculture on irrigation serviced properties reduces scope for whole-of-system asset management and planning, undermining efforts to sustain the integrity and viability of these important assets and the agricultural communities they support.
The Victorian Government is committed to ensuring that the siting of solar energy facilities aligns with rural water corporation assets and future planning, enabling optimal use of resources and assets within irrigation districts for the purpose of agricultural production and allowing for future strategic adjustments of the irrigation district footprint where sustainable.
Permit application process information
To find out more about the permit application lodgement process and pre-application requirements, visit these pages at the DELWP Planning website .
Pre-application service for proposed solar energy facilities within declared irrigation districts
A proponent is strongly encouraged to engage with DELWP Water and Catchments Group early in the site selection phase of a project, where the proposed project is likely to fall within a declared irrigation district.
DELWP Water and Catchments Group will connect proponents with the relevant rural water corporation who can assist by providing initial site-specific information on whether a proposed site is serviced by irrigation infrastructure that the rural water corporation manages.
DELWP Water and Catchments Group can also assist proponents by providing advice (based on rural water corporation site-specific information) on appropriate siting considerations with respect to the Guideline and VPP Clause 14.02-3S Protection of declared irrigation districts.
It is important for proponents to know that if the site is a serviced property, has a water use licence in place, and the infrastructure is planned to be retained by the rural water corporation (not decommissioned), then these three factors, collectively, will mean that this site is unlikely to be a suitable location for development of a solar energy facility.
Early engagement will contribute to appropriate site selection decisions which is essential to a project’s success.
For a pre-application meeting with us, please send an email to: email@example.com
Page last updated: 28/10/22