NSW gives two large-scale solar farms go-ahead

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Two big solar farms have won the approval of the New South Wales (NSW) government to join the state’s booming large-scale PV development pipeline in the week that has seen nearly 500 MW of solar PV waved through.

After giving the green light to a massive project comprising a 275 MW solar farm and 100 MWh energy storage facility 10km south of Darlington Point, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment has approved this week’s second largest project – the $262 million Suntop Solar Farm in the state’s Central West.

The 170 MW solar farm located 10km west of Wellington was proposed by Netherlands-based renewables developer Photon Energy, Chinese module maker and project developer Canadian Solar and investment company Polpo.

It is estimated to consist of up to 550,000 PV panels installed on a single axis tracking system, according to the project environmental impact statement. The project will feature 118 inverter stations supplied by Ingeteam, as a fully containerized solution.

Two access roads will be constructed, as well as a new 132 kV substation that will connect directly to the existing 132 kV transmission line traversing the site.

The Suntop Solar Farm is expected to power up to 70,000 homes and create 250 jobs during construction and ten operational jobs during its 30 year life.

Construction is pencilled in to commence in the first quarter of 2019 and last around 12 months.

The Suntop project is part of the deal between Photon Energy and Canadian Solar sealed early this year, to codevelop five NSW solar farms with the accumulated capacity of 1.14 GW. 

Under the agreement, Canadian Solar acquired 51% in five Photon Energy projects, including the 316 MW Gunning, 286 MW Suntop, 196 MW Maryvale, 178 MW Mumbil, and the 165 MW Bunnedah solar farms.

Of these five projects, only Gunning is fully owned by Photon, while the remaining four are being co-developed by Photon Energy with Sydney based Polpo Investment.

In case of Suntop, Photon Energy will retain approximately 25% and Polpo will hold the balance of the shares.

The third large-scale solar farm approved for this week is the 47 MW solar project for the outskirts of Wagga Wagga.

The $61 million Gregadoo Solar Farm was proposed by Green Switch Australia.

It will feature around 122,000 solar panels mounted on single axis tracking system, eight inverter units and an electrical substation located as near as possible to the TransGrid Wagga Wagga Substation.

The project is expected to power more than 17,500 homes each year and provide an economic boost to Wagga Wagga’s local economy, with up to 150 employees at the peak of construction and two to three operational staff for the 30 year life of the project. 

The Department said there were no formal objections to the project from local community members, although it did consult with a number of surrounding landowners, who raised concerns about visual impacts and land use compatibility.

Construction of the Gregadoo Solar Farm is expected to take up to nine months.

These project approvals closely follow the release of a new Large-Scale Solar Energy Guideline developed by the NSW government and designed to lead applicants and the community through the assessment process for state significant solar farm proposals.

According to the NSW government’s latest data, 49 utility-scale PV projects have been approved across the state, representing some 3.3 GW of capacity. Further 34 solar farms are under construction.