Plans for transmission to support development of the New South Wales Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone are progressing apace with TransGrid last week having secured a $600 million bank debt facility to finance planned grid augmentation, and community consultation on a proposed new transmission corridor commencing today in the town of Wellington.
TransGrid’s Executive Manager for Business Growth, Richard Lowe said of the debt facility that it will play “a significant role in securing a renewable future for Australia. It enables us to continue the delivery of services to our fast growing pipeline of long-term contracted load and renewable energy infrastructure.”
New high-voltage transmission lines have been proposed to run in a 180 kilometre long corridor, with a preliminary width of between 3 and 6 km, from the existing network near Merriwa, passing south of Dunedoo before continuing south-west and connecting at the existing network east of Wellington.
The final easements for the transmission will be only 60 or 80 metres wide, and their path will be informed by landowner and community feedback, said a TransGrid callout to participate published earlier this month.
Recognising the importance of Australia’s first coordinated REZ as envisaged in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO’s) Integrated System Plan (ISP), ARENA provided $5 million in funding to TransGrid in June last year, to enable a $16.2 million scoping study that will result in a business case of the Central-West Orana REZ.
“This study is expected to provide a pathway to achieve Australia’s first true Renewable Energy Zone,” said Darren Miller, CEO of ARENA in June, “and provide a blueprint for how others can be created in the future.”
In May 2020, at a time when grid connection for large-scale solar and wind projects had become increasingly harder to negotiate in the National Electricity Market (NEM), the NSW Government’s call for expressions of interest in participating in a 3 GW REZ that coordinated transmission with renewable generators and energy storage was rapidly oversubscribed by nine times — the government received 27 GW of proposals for solar, wind and battery projects.
The NSW Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean, has been lauded, both for his leadership in getting the REZ ball rolling and for quadrupling — from $9 million to more than $40 million — the State Government’s commitment to enabling this pilot REZ.
Expected to be shovel ready at the end of 2022, with construction commencing in early 2023, transmission for the Central-West Orana REZ will be designed to help unlock up to $5.2 billion of private investment in the region by 2030, generating not only energy to replace the fossil-fuel power generation in NSW as coal-fired stations close over the coming decade, but also resulting in an estimated 3,900 peak construction jobs and 500 ongoing positions in the Central-West NSW region..
In December, the REZ project was declared Critical State Significant Infrastructure by the NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes. A great deal of investor confidence and public trust rests on how the project is conducted.
“The efficient development of the transmission network will provide system and economic benefits,” wrote Paul Italiano, CEO of TransGrid in the foreword to the provider’s NSW Transmission Annual Planning Report 2020.
On another occasion Italiano added, “Investment in the new infrastructure will enable renewable energy providers to connect to the grid and enable more affordable, reliable and clean energy for NSW customers.”
After today’s (8am and 5pm) and tomorrow’s (8am) community consultation sessions at Wellington Civic Centre, TransGrid will progress it’s program of information and consultation in Elong Elong, Dunedoo Leadville, Gulgong, Cassilis and Merriwa, according to a timetable published on the transmission network provider’s website.
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