Niche was subcontracted by AECOM to undertake the ecological assessment for Renew Estate Pty Ltd on their proposed 100 megawatt (MW) solar farm near Sutton NSW, approximately 3.5km northeast of the ACT border.
The State Significant Development involved the assessment of ecological values within the study area under the Biodiversity Assessment Methodology (BAM). This assessment determined how the proposed solar farm is likely to have an impact on threatened biodiversity listed under the state and commonwealth legislation.
Niche undertook a thorough background review of ecological values of the areas to be surveyed, which informed the survey design we developed for the site. Targeted surveys were conducted for the threatened Striped Legless Lizard, Birds, Amphibians and the Golden Sun Moth. Golden Sun Moth surveys were carried out by Golden Sun Moth expert Alison Rowell.
Achieving a balance between preserving ecological values, and delivering a favourable outcome for our client and their project
Niche also completed vegetation mapping and delineation and the identification of native vegetation communities. Data was entered into the BAM Calculator to determine offsets required for the development.
Several sections of the study area were identified as containing ecological constraints such as habitat features and native vegetation. Multiple areas of Golden Sun Moth habitat of varying quality were also identified throughout the study area. This species is endangered under the Biodiversity Conservation Act and critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Niche’s ecological consultants worked closely with AECOM and Renew Estate to design the final development footprint of the solar farm to avoid important Golden Sun Moth habitat and other ecological values. Areas of important Golden Sun Moth habitat were excluded from the final design, ensuring minimal impact on the species, and achieving a balance between preserving ecological values and supporting the growth of renewable energy infrastructure in NSW.
Niche was able to work with the client in adjusting the final layout of the solar farm and in turn protecting areas within the study area of higher conservation value. Niche prepared the Biodiversity Development Report for submission to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) and the referral to the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy (DOEE). Renew Estate is currently responding to submissions received on the project during public exhibition, after which the consent authorities will make a final decision on the project.
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Pictured: Superb Parrot (Polytelis swainsonii), Springdale Solar Farm site, Eastern Earless Three-toed Skink (Hemiergis talbigoensis).