Farmer's Fire Concerns Flare as Solar Farm Development Nears Family Land

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Farmer's Fire Concerns Flare as Solar Farm Development Nears Family Land

Concerns Mount as Solar Farm Development Nears Family Farm

Stephen Pumpa, a fourth-generation farmer in southern NSW, is facing anxieties as a large-scale solar farm is set to be built adjacent to his family's land. The Culcairn solar farm, expected to be operational by 2026, will occupy 1,000 hectares and share a 7-kilometer boundary with the Pumpa property.

Pumpa's primary concern is the potential for fire spreading from his property to the solar farm. He worries that his $50 million public liability insurance might not be sufficient to cover the damages in such a scenario.

"It would only take a small fire or something like that to get into that development and we wouldn't have enough funds to cover that damage," he said.

While the Rural Fire Service assures that firefighters would not be hindered by the presence of a solar farm, they also emphasize the responsibility of landholders to prevent fire risks on their property. Pumpa has taken steps to mitigate the risk by creating a firebreak on his land.

However, the issue of insurance remains a concern. Neoen, the company behind the Culcairn development, states that they have their own insurance policy for solar farm equipment damage caused by fire. However, they hold adjoining landholders liable for any negligence causing fire damage to the solar farm.

The Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure is aware of these concerns and is consulting with the insurance industry. They have released a draft policy framework document providing guidance on solar, wind, and transmission projects.

The Insurance Council of Australia clarifies that rising insurance costs are not related to renewables but rather to the increasing costs of natural disasters, property values, and inflation. They have not observed concerns from insurers regarding rural properties near energy infrastructure.

Despite his anxieties, Pumpa remains committed to farming alongside the development. He acknowledges that the project has been approved and will proceed.