Planning the Energy Transition: A Comparative Examination of Large-Scale Solar Energy Siting on Agricultural Land in Australia



The siting of large-scale solar energy projects on agricultural land has raised questions of how land use risks can be balanced. This balancing exercise creates a regulatory paradox. Solar energy is vital to energy system decarbonisation to mitigate climate change effects and create energy security. Yet, agricultural land may be negatively impacted where solar energy is not sited and regulated effectively to ensure arable land remains productive. The policy goals of facilitating solar energy development and arable land protection fall to planning regulatory regimes in Australia which, to date, have had varying approaches to assessing solar energy development on arable land.

This article explores how the twin policy goals of increasing solar energy and arable land preservation can be achieved via planning regimes with effective siting and co-location legal tools. Such planning tools can encourage the development of renewable energy to reach net-zero emissions goals while ensuring appropriate regulatory settings providing co-benefits to agricultural activities. The article provides a comparative analysis of the planning regimes in three Australian states, Queensland, New South Wales (NSW), and Victoria, and their varied approaches to assessing solar energy development on agricultural land. This comparative evaluation is viewed against the backdrop of increasing climate change risks and the need to urgently transition to renewable energy successfully proffered by effective planning regulation.


Solar energyEnergy TransitionPlanning regulationAgricultural landComparative LawAustralia
  • Year: 2022
  • Volume: 18 Issue: 2
  • Page/Article: 70–86
  • DOI: 10.36633/ulr.814
  • Published on 28 Nov 2022
  • Peer Reviewed