S is for solar, social media and STOP

IMG_3987I’m in a long and weary Facebook battle with the good people of Brewongle, just out of town, who are furiously opposing a solar farm on a neighbouring property. I keep swearing off, only to head back again to see if there have been any replies. I really need to swear off. It is miserable. Neither side will convince the other. I find myself locked down, now, defending my position, making me just as intransigent as my opponents. I feel I’m on the right side of history. I have the welfare of the whole planet on my side. They have only property values and a distaste for seeing visible evidence of renewable energy projects in their line of sight.

Via email, I appeal to academics I know who support the science of climate change and the need to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. They reply saying they can’t be seen to be “political”. One told me he preferred to work at a “higher” level. I go into a rage spiral, feeling I live in a Stalinist state. Nobody’s free to tell the truth because everybody is locked down, seduced into the system by nice plump salaries. I feel on higher moral ground, more free to be open to the truth, because I have nothing to lose but my precarious session-to-session teaching contracts (all have just expired; I may never teach again), a mortgaged suburban house in a regional town, a 1999 Subaru Outback and a laughable superannuation fund (all of which is a lot more than most people on earth, but a lot less than said tenured academics). But I’m perhaps not free to be open to the truth because I’m on a campaign to be right. They are wrong. They are nothing but Nimbys dressing up their outrage with some theories about solar panels damaging prime agricultural land. Supported by a pet agronomist.

I need to get back to yarning. I’m hanging out for the River Yarners meeting tomorrow at Rahamim, where I will stitch and bitch.

I need to step away from social media.

Immediately after writing that last sentence, I went back. I went back to copy and paste some of the Facebook comments into this post, but got stuck there, forgot what I was doing. I wrote a long and complicated reply and then deleted it. I will go back there now and attempt to copy and paste without writing any replies.

Be right back.

Okay, here’s the link to the post and discussion:

And here are some excerpts from the discussion under the post:


Tracy Sorensen – Me (and president of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network)

Margie Locke – Brewongle farmer who owns a property near the proposed solar farm

Sandy Bathgate – Brewongle resident who has been involved in heritage campaigns around Bathurst.

Andrew Bray – former employee of The Wind Alliance, who strolled into the discussion from his home in Victoria.

EXCERPTS FROM COMMENTS (7-8 November, 2017):

Tracy Sorensen The ideal solution exists somewhere out in the ether, not here on earth. We have to work with what’s possible and what we’ve got. It might not be ideal, but compared to open cut coal mining, this is a much better idea. Unlike open cut coal mining, the land used for wind and solar is easily converted back to agriculture if needs change in the future. Let’s be clear about what this is all about: the transition from fossil fuels to renewables in order to stave off catastrophic global warming. As we make the necessary changes, the world is going to look different. If we say no to this different world because we don’t like the look of it, we’re in deep trouble. It’s not okay to say some other people somewhere else need to tackle this. Every town, every region, can play its part. Bathurst can be known as a region that has embraced the challenge. That can actually be very attractive to tourists and residents alike.

Margie Locke Tracy where does food security fit into your point of view? For food security and clean energy to support and sustain future generations we need a WIN WIN . We can get the WIN WIN by placing BIG Solar on marginal land .You can’t produce any more PRIME Agricultural Land. It is a rich national resource. BIG Solar needs sun NOT productive agricultural soils. People need rich soil to produce food . We need farmers 3 times a day and we eat food NOT power. Add to the mix the massive Govt subsidies being used to attract foreign investors to build BIG Solar . What do we get from that ? Massive costs added to our consumer electricity prices to pay for the massive subsidies. As well we would have to buy the power back sent from our community to the grid. Is that cost effective for the consumer? Meanwhile the foreign companies take their profits offshore and leave their losses here. We pay again . Massive tracts of agricultural land given over to foreign ownership and now BIG Solar . It isn’t sustainable for future generations. Look globally at the massive solar plants built in desert areas eg: Morocco and the Mojave Desert in California. We need Govts to think creatively instead of scurrying to meet energy targets as they are. We have vast tracts of marginal land in this BIG country.

Tracy Sorensen I believe in local food security as well. We can do both in the Bathurst region.

Sandy Bathgate Tracy, let’s get it right. We don’t need to ruin people’s ;lives in the process. There’s plenty of marginal land this can go on. Nobody, even you, wants this next to them – it is completely unnecessary. Perhaps more strategic thinking is needed here.

Margie Locke Tracy Sorensen Then let’s see you offer support to the concerns of this community impacted. Where does conservation fit in under your banner? We are 5th generation farmers and are “green” – living and working on a ” green asset” ; caring for and nurturing the land in our stewardship of it; toiling on the land to contribute to the food security of our nation; planting trees to support our ” green ” environment and the influences of climate changes. Prime agricultural land supports Carbon in this discussion . You haven’t answered what you think about placing Big solar on marginal unproductive agricultural land ??? Please do . There is a BIG picture to all of this ….:

Tracy Sorensen Conservation is at the heart of everything we do. Honestly. Climate change is threatening all of the life-processes humanity has relied upon for millennia. I’m all for big solar on marginal land. To shift decisively away from fossil fuels we’re going to have a lot more of it. I can’t see why you can’t continue to work your own the land in the way you describe alongside a neighbouring property that has solar panels on it. Solar panels do not permanently disable agricultural land.

Andrew Bray Sandy Bathgate how do you see a project like this “ruins people’s lives”?

Margie Locke Tracy Sorensen if you are all for Big Solar on marginal agricultural land can I put this to you: Would your Action Group be prepared to work with Bathurst Regional Council , Town Planners and our impacted community to find an alternative site in the Bathurst region on Marginal agricultural land ?? There should be a criteria to work with.( having said that: -probably NOT -according to PHOTON they selected the site from behind a desk!!!! ) Big Solar is a new phenomenon of which research hasn’t kept abreast of the ” run away train” . We have credible reports from agronomists that support deterioration of soil over the life of a solar plant – compacted soils ; influences on carbon ; some credible research is just starting to come out of the UK who were well ahead of us with Solar and who are now moving more to nuclear!!! Placing Big Solar on Prime land is going to have consequences for future generations with food security- Prime land is being sold off to foreign investors at a rate of knots. When do we say as a nation: WE MUST preserve and protect our richest NATIONAL “green” asset – PRIME land. Communities have to become the VOICE.


I’m making a second knitted platypus. That helps. And a couple of days ago, just as I was descending into this pointless argument, I was in Macchattie Park catching Pokemon and happened to look at the ducks (not a Psyduck, a real Pacific black duck). I looked at the face of one of the ducks, calm and present. I need animals. Plants and animals and those little in-betweeners like lichen. There be consolation.



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