The New South Wales (NSW) government’s plan to bring 12 GW of renewable energy and 2 GW of storage online by 2030 has received a boost with the formal declaration of Australia’s first coordinated renewable energy zone (REZ).
NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean announced on Thursday that the Central-West Orana REZ, centred on the inland town of Dubbo, has been formally declared, paving the way for a huge pipeline of large-scale renewable energy generation and storage projects to come online, creating thousands of jobs and providing enough cheap, clean and reliable electricity to power more than a million homes.
“New South Wales is driving the nation’s action on climate change, by securing our economic and environmental prosperity for decades to come,” he said.
“Once complete this REZ will provide at least 3000 megawatts of cheap, reliable electricity, enough to power 1.4 million homes. It will also drive $5.2 billion in private investment into the Central West by 2030, supporting around 3,900 construction jobs.”
The declaration is the first step in formalising the REZ under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020. It sets out the intended size, location and infrastructure that will make up the Central-West Orana REZ which is centred on Dubbo and extends west to Narromine and east beyond Mudgee and takes in Wellington to the south and Gilgrandra to the north.
While the network capacity for the REZ is listed as 3 GW of solar and wind generation with transmission and storage, that is expected to be increased with the declaration highlighting there is scope for additional generation, storage and network infrastructure to be added in the future.
The Central-West Orana REZ is one of five designated clean energy areas detailed in the NSW Government’s electricity roadmap, which will support more than $32 billion of investment in renewable energy generation, storage and transmission in the state.
REZs will also be developed in the New England, South-West, Hunter-Central Coast and Illawarra regions and are expected to bring 12 GW of renewable energy and 2 GW of storage online ahead of the planned retirement of the state’s aging thermal-generation fleet.
The Central-West Orana region was selected to host 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 4.5 GW of renewable energy projects either approved or in the planning system.
A call for registrations of interest in the Central-West Orana REZ last year attracted 113 registrations, totalling 27 GW and valued at $38 billion, a response that Kean labelled “astounding”.
The Central-West Orana REZ was formally declared on 5 November, just 12 months after the state government legislated to install 12 GW of renewable generation and 2 GW of energy storage over 10 years, to replace retiring coal-plant generation.
“In New South Wales, we not only have targets and plans, we also have nation-leading legislation that will deliver on our commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050,” Kean said.
“REZs are modern-day power stations which bring together low-cost solar and wind generation with transmission and storage to produce cheap, clean and reliable electricity.”
EnergyCo to oversee infrastructure
The state-owned Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo) has been appointed as the infrastructure planner for the Central-West Orana REZ and will coordinate the transmission, generation, firming and storage projects.
The first stage of the Central-West Orana REZ will be the development of new high-voltage transmission infrastructure, including power lines and substations, to connect renewable energy projects, including large-scale wind and solar farms to the existing electricity network.
New high-voltage transmission lines have been proposed to run in a 180-kilometre corridor from the existing network near Merriwa, passing south of Dunedoo before continuing south-west and connecting at the existing network east of Wellington. The study corridor includes an option to extend further south near Lake Burrendong. The existing 500 kV Wollar substation will also be upgraded as part of the Central-West Orana REZ Transmission project.
The new infrastructure will be delivered by the NSW transmission planner TransGrid.
The Central-West Orana REZ Transmission Project is expected to be shovel-ready at the end of 2022, with construction commencing in early 2023.
Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders said the declaration of the Central-West Orana REZ was a great milestone for the region.
“Our region is blessed with some of the best renewable resources anywhere in the country, and this REZ will provide jobs, investment and economic benefits for generations to come,” he said.
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