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Renewable energy project planning and approvals

When planning or commencing a renewable energy project, you must obtain access to suitable and available land and follow the relevant development assessment processes.

Site identification and land access

Contact these departments for assistance as the first stage of your project plan.

The Coordinator-General has statutory powers that can assist projects proponents in gaining access to land for investigations and temporary works in some circumstances in state development areas and for some specially approved private infrastructure facilities. This includes the power to compulsorily acquire land or easements to assist public and private proponents to deliver a project.

The Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP) has established relationships with land use planning and property development stakeholders (e.g. local government and commercial real estate agents). DSDMIP can work across these organisations to identify and assess suitable parcels of land for renewable projects. Depending on land tenure, they can facilitate discussions with state agencies for state land.

Navigate the development assessment process

As a project proponent, you need to consider planning and environmental requirements under the relevant Australian, Queensland and local government legislation applying to the site. These requirements will vary depending on the type of project, site characteristics and constraints, and the assessing authority's legislative frameworks.

State assessment

Renewable energy projects must comply with development assessment requirements in local government planning schemes. You should contact the relevant local government to determine these requirements and if any other assessing authority (e.g. State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA)) will be involved in the assessment process.

DSDMIP is responsible for Queensland's development assessment framework under the Planning Act 2016 and, through SARA, for assessing development that may impact on matters of interest to Queensland against the State Development Assessment Provisions.

Environmental approvals

If your renewable energy project is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance, you need to refer your development to the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy for assessment under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

The EPBC Act provides a legal framework to protect and manage matters of national environmental significance.

Assessment process for wind farms

Your development application for Queensland wind farm proposals must be lodged with SARA and will be assessed against State code 23: Wind farm development of the State Development Assessment Provisions.

Queensland's wind farm code provides a consistent, coordinated, whole-of-government approach to assessing and regulating wind farm development across Queensland. It helps achieve quality renewable energy outcomes while protecting communities from adverse impacts from wind farm development.

Assessment process for large-scale solar farms

Contact the relevant local government for the assessment of solar farm proposals.

The local planning instrument will prescribe a level of assessment for a proposed development. In more recent planning schemes, solar farms are defined as 'renewable energy facilities', while older planning schemes will typically define a solar farm as a 'community facility' or an 'undefined use'.

Tables of assessment within the planning scheme will prescribe a level of assessment for the solar farm based on the use definition. The level of assessment will be either code assessment or impact assessment.

Solar farm guidelines

Solar projects should:

  • be developed in harmony with other land uses
  • take into account the interests of all stakeholders
  • be supported by the community.

We have developed the following Queensland solar farm guidelines to ensure that the expansion of large-scale solar projects in Queensland are supported by the community, balance stakeholder considerations and maintain a strong social license to operate.

The Queensland solar farm guidelines: Guidance for local governments (PDF, 524KB) supports local councils to assess large-scale projects under the Queensland Planning Framework. It provides advice on how to integrate solar farms into local planning schemes and what to consider when assessing development applications.

The Queensland solar farm guidelines: Practical guidance for communities, landowners and project proponents (PDF, 5.8MB) educates local communities and project developers about best practice at each stage of the project development cycle. It provides guidance about development assessment and approvals, as well as the community engagement process.

Code assessable applications

For code assessable applications, particular code provisions will be identified in the tables of assessment. The codes may include zone codes, use codes, overlay codes or state codes. The codes provide assessment benchmarks in which the solar farm will be assessed against.

Impact assessable applications

For impact assessable applications, a solar farm is subject to assessment against the entire planning scheme where reasonable and relevant.

Approvals for complex projects

There are several assessment pathways you can follow for complex renewable energy projects.

The Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs can assist project proponents map out the development approval processes for more complex large-scale renewable energy projects (e.g. with a hydro-electric or geothermal component or a combination of wind and solar).

Projects declared under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act) can use powers under the act to assist with project delivery. The relevant minister may declare a project to be a 'prescribed project' under Part 5A of the SDPWO Act if the project is of significance, economically and socially, to Queensland or a region of Queensland.

A prescribed project declaration enables the Coordinator-General, if necessary, to intervene in the approvals process in a number of ways to ensure timely decision making for the prescribed project.

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