Plans to develop a 720 MW solar farm coupled with up to 400 MWh of battery storage have passed an important milestone with a grid connection agreement locked in with Transgrid, the operator of the electricity transmission network in NSW. Project developer UPC/AC Renewables Australia expects design work on a transmission substation to begin soon and plans to start road upgrades as part of the development later this year.
The $768 million New England Solar Farm will be built across two solar fields six kilometers east of Uralla in one of the three renewable energy zones proposed by the state government. With more than 2.4 million solar panels, 150 power conversion units, and a lithium-ion battery storage facility, the project will connect to TransGrid’s existing 330 kV transmission line that transects the development site.
Depending on the final installed capacity, the solar farm would produce around 1,800 GWh of electricity each year – enough to power more than 250,000 NSW homes. The solar farm project will be constructed in stages over 36 months. It is expected to create up to 700 full-time jobs during construction, provide work for local businesses and suppliers and diversify income for rural landowners.
Labeled as a State Significant Development, the project was approved with conditions by the NSW Independent Planning Commission in March after more than two years of detailed planning, assessment, and community engagement. Since then, the project developer has continued to work on the required management plans, project finance and the appointment of the main construction contractor.
UPC/AC Renewables Australia is also proposing to install a big battery capable of dispatching energy to the grid at times of high energy demand. Under the proposal, the battery system would be constructed in stages, starting with 50 MWh up to a maximum size of 400 MWh.
The developer is also proposing to support local community projects by providing funding of $250 for every megawatt (AC) of power generating capacity installed at the New England Solar Farm, or $180,000 a year over the 25-year working life of the solar farm, assuming full capacity of the facility is operating.