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New England big battery awarded $12.5 million state government grant


Plans for a massive solar and storage project nearby Uralla in the New England region of New South Wales have received a big boost with the announcement of a $12.5 million State Government grant. The funding provided through the government’s Emerging Energy Program will be used to support the construction of a 50 MWh battery that will be collocated with stage 1 of the UPC/AC Renewables’ 720 MW New England Solar Farm.

The battery storage system will be built alongside the 400 MW stage 1 solar farm. Construction on the battery is expected to start early next year and will take about 12 months. During peak construction, 40 jobs will be created with three ongoing roles once commissioned. The project details and funding announcement came from Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall on Thursday.

“This is another huge coup for our region and demonstrating the New England Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) is already delivering innovation, infrastructure and industry at a rapid fire rate,” Marshall said.

The $768 million New England Solar Farm will be built across two solar fields six kilometers east of Uralla in one of the three REZs 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.

Based on the 720 MW target capacity of both stages, the solar farm will 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.

“When this project is completed, we will proudly hold the mantle as the capital of renewables for NSW and, perhaps in the not too distant future, all of Australia,” Marshall said. “It’s astounding to think in just two months since the REZ was announced, our electorate has seen $22 million invested by the State Government in flagship renewable energy projects, helping to create 84 construction and operational jobs and grow the local economy.”

As previously announced by UPC/AC Renewables Australia, the New England big battery will be constructed in stages, starting with 50 MWh up to a maximum size of 400 MWh. The system will be capable of dispatching energy to the grid at times of high energy demand.

“Should the cost of batteries continue to fall and the need for firming energy increase the company also has planning approval to expand the battery capacity up to 400 MWh, creating up to 200 jobs at peak construction,” UPC/AC Renewables Head of Solar Development Killian Wentrup said on Thursday.

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. In June, the project cleared another hurdle with a grid connection agreement locked in with Transgrid, which will allow the 720 MW solar farm to connect and supply power into the NSW electricity grid, and be traded in the National Electricity Market. Other works on the project appear to be charging ahead.

“Design work on the transmission substation to be constructed as part of the approved development will begin soon, allowing the project to connect to the existing 330kV line that crosses the solar farm site,” Wentrup said. “Work is also underway on the design of the access road upgrades, with the upgrades being needed prior to commencement of construction of the solar farm.”

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.

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