MEMBERS of a newly formed action group that opposes a proposed solar farm at Eglinton say the development could turn Bathurst from a regional tourism hub into an industrial town.
They also say the solar farm land won't be able to be grazed, despite what the renewable energy company says.
French company Neoen held a community information session at Eglinton in mid-June to introduce its proposed $200 million solar farm on Thomas Drive, off Eleven Mile Drive.
Neoen says the 200MW, 500-hectare solar farm will create 230 jobs during construction and be able to power almost 100,000 homes when operating.
Members of the Cangoura Solar Action Group (CSAG), named for the historic property where the proposed solar farm would be located, say Neoen has chosen the wrong spot.
"Gone will be the prime agricultural lands currently situated within a heritage and historical setting that hark back to the pioneers' original 1820s settlement," CSAG president Andrew Rendall said.
Neoen head of development Garth Heron told the Advocate at the Eglinton community session that sheep are grazing under solar panels on all of its sites across Australia.
Mr Rendall, however, said the land would suffer at the proposed Eglinton site.
"It will be near impossible to farm the land and keep its quality," he said.
"Lack of weed control, fertiliser and suitable management means the pasture will degenerate and become unsustainable over time, particularly with the removal of the trees.
"It certainly won't stand up for long-term grazing by cattle or sheep. Erosion will inevitably follow."
Neoen's Mr Heron has previously said two of the advantages of the proposed site are the relatively few trees compared with surrounding land and the fact the trees within the project boundary are concentrated along the gullies.
"When Neoen designs the solar farm, these gullies will always be protected," he told the Advocate last month.
CSAG says the Cangoura property is home to East Saltram Creek and the East Saltram Creek Landcare Project, which was the first Landcare project in NSW.
CSAG says severe weather events throughout the 20th century caused devastating erosion on the property that affected the wider Bathurst basin.
In response, volunteers planted thousands of native trees on the land 30 years ago, the group says.
The action group also says the property's original grassy woodlands provide shelter for stock and native animals alike under its 100-year-old-plus box trees that line the hills and ridge line.
Few examples of solar farms, the action group says, have any trees left intact.
The action group members also say Bathurst's cloudy days and thick, late-lifting fogs will make the solar farm unproductive - though Mr Heron has said the solar "irradiance" in Bathurst is very high, as shown by the number of homes in the city that have solar panels.
"In our opinion, Neoen is using large scale to compensate for quality and efficiency at the expense of Bathurst," Mr Rendall said.
"Yes, we certainly acknowledge the convenience of the nearby electrical grid, but the heritage and land use costs are way too much and irreversible in nature.
"Landowners in the immediate vicinity are against the proposal. They do not want to live next door to it and they do not want to look at it daily."
The group members say the solar farm project might reposition Bathurst as an industrial city.
The NSW Government will have the final say on whether the project goes ahead.