Transmission Project declared ‘critical’ as NSW pushes ahead with first REZ

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NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean on Thursday said the network upgrades had been deemed critical as the government pushes ahead with plans to boost its renewable energy footprint and unlock the state’s first REZ.

“Transmission is such a critical piece of the energy infrastructure puzzle,” Kean said.

“We have seen huge investment interest in generation and storage projects … and projects like this will ensure we can get that capacity into the grid and into homes and business across the state.”

NSW parliament last month rubber-stamped an electricity “road map“, which will support more than $32 billion of investment in renewable energy generation, storage and transmission in the state, including development of five REZs which are expected to bring 12 GW of renewable energy and 2 GW of storage online.

REZs will be developed in the New England, South-West, Hunter-Central Coast, Illawarra and Central-West Orana regions.

The Central-West Orana region was selected as the state’s first REZ due to the level of planning and investment in new solar, wind and energy storage projects already underway in the region, with about 4,500 MW of renewable energy projects either approved or in the planning system.

Kean has said the Central-West Orana REZ “will be the modern-day equivalent of a traditional power station, capable of powering 1.3 million homes”.

The State Government has committed $39.7 million to the Transmission Project, which is expected to add at least 3,000 MW of electricity capacity to the system with new transmission lines and substations to be constructed across the region.

The planned corridor for the Central West Orana REZ Transmission Project.

Image: Transgrid

The proposed transmission lines are expected to run north-west from the existing network near Merriwa, passing south of Dunedoo, before proceeding south-west to connect to the existing network east of Wellington. The study corridor includes an option to extend further south near Lake Burrendong. Wollar substation will also be upgraded as part of the transmission project.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the central west transmission project would “pave the way for $5.2 billion in private investment in renewable energy”.

“This would increase the grid’s capacity and enable the development of Australia’s first coordinated Renewable Energy Zone which will support the pipeline of wind, solar and energy storage projects in the Central West Orana region,” he said.

Community consultations in pipeline

TransGrid CEO Paul Italiano said the network operator will start working with local communities in the new year to discuss preliminary works and seek input on the planning of the transmission assets.

“Early in 2021 our people will be in the Central-West Orana region talking to communities and it is important we hear from landowners as we plan new transmission lines, a substation and other infrastructure as part of the project,” he said.

“Their feedback will inform planning about the transmission line route and help us minimise impacts on communities and maximise benefits for the local region.”

Community information sessions are expected to commence February 2021.

The Central-West Orana REZ Transmission Project is expected to be shovel-ready at the end of 2022, with construction commencing in early 2023.

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