520 MW agrisolar + battery project proposed for the Hunter progresses


Lighthouse bp’s 588 MWp Goulburn River Solar Farm with its 296 MWp battery energy storage system, proposed by for a site in Merriwa, approximately halfway between Newcastle and Dubbo, has progressed to the next stages of planning.

Last week, the Australian government posted the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) referral for the project, inviting the public to comment until January 18. Formal planning applications following on from the company’s now-complete preliminary assessments, site design and community consultation are expected to be lodged mid-year.

The Goulburn River Solar Farm proposal currently involves a 520 MW (DC) solar farm (peaking at 588 MW) and a 296 MW/588 MWh battery energy storage system (BESS). Few details of the battery are included in the public referral, so the potential chemistry remains unclear, though the document does detail the system will be “housed in a series of outdoor containers”. 

In total, the solar farm will include around 950,000 bifacial solar panels expected to generate 992,000 MWh of electricity annually, enough to supply approximately 4% of the state’s electricity demand, according to lightsource bp.

Lightsource bp’s 176 MW Woolooga Solar Farm in Queensland is expected to commence commercial operations in mid-2022.

Image: Lightsource bp

The Goulburn River Solar Farm is to be built on more than 1000 hectares of cleared freehold land previously used for grazing livestock. The site will be returned to this purpose once the solar panels, sitting about five metres above ground level, have been installed. This will see around 1000 sheep grazing on the property, “managing” the grass, weeds and plant life below the sprawling agrivoltaics project.

Lightsource bp expects construction to begin by mid-2023. 

The company has already been in discussions with a number of state government authorities, as well as community stakeholders, holding a series of web events toward the end of last year. In the referral the company says it will continue to consult with residents and local community, holding in-person community sessions (hopefully) in March and April this year. “Following this engagement, we will conclude a range of detailed assessments, before undertaking the statutory pre submission consultation,” lightsource bp’s website reads.

In the referral, it says the project will involve a capital investment value of more than $30 million.

Lightsource bp is seeking to significantly ramp up its global solar portfolio, taking it from 4 GW to 25 GW in the next four years. The company owns a number of projects in Australia, mostly in NSW. Those include the 400 MW (DC) Wellington North solar farm on which construction is soon to begin, the 200 MW (DC) Wellington solar farm which is currently in construction, the 107 MW (DC) West Wyalong solar farm also in construction, as well as the 840 MW (DC) Sandy Creek solar farm, though this project is, like Goulburn River Solar Farm, still in early planning stages. Lightsource bp is also currently constructing the 210 MW (DC) Woolooga solar farm in Queensland. 

Lightsource BP’s Wellington solar farm is one of several now commissioning in NSW.

Image: Lightsource bp

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