The New South Wales (NSW) government has published a draft declaration for the South-West Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), one of five designated clean energy areas detailed in the state government’s electricity roadmap which would bring 12GW of renewable energy and 2GW of storage online by 2030.
The draft declaration published on Friday details the intended capacity, geographical area and required network infrastructure that will make up the South-West REZ which is centred around the town of Hay in the western Riverina region.
The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo), the statutory authority established by the NSW government to lead the delivery of the state’s REZs, said the declaration is the first step in formalising the REZ under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020.
EnergyCo said the capacity of the South-West REZ will be no less than 2.5GW with the area chosen due to “an abundance of high-quality wind and solar resources”, relative land-use compatibility, an exisiting strong pipeline of proposed projects and its proximity to project EnergyConnect.
The region is traversed by the 900-kilometre EnergyConnect project, an interconnector being built by network operators Transgrid and ElectraNet between Wagga Wagga in NSW and Robertstown in South Australia, with a connection to Red Cliffs in Victoria. The project will also upgrade the 330kV transmission line to 500kV between Wagga Wagga and Dinawan, which links to the eastern edge of the South-West REZ.
EneryCo said the EnergyConnect project will support the South-West REZ by unlocking up to 1.2GW of additional transmission capacity.
Developers have already demonstrated a keen interest in the South-West REZ, with the state government revealing in February it had received a “huge” response to the registration of interest (ROI) process.
EnergyCo chief executive officer James Hay said 49 wind, solar PV and energy storage registrations were received totalling more than 34GW of generation and storage – 13 times the intended capacity for the South-West REZ.
In the wake of that response, EnergyCo conducted a review of the submissions and has since refined the geographic boundary of the South-West REZ.
EnergyCo said the eastern and northern boundaries have been retracted to “balance interactions with existing land uses and provide a balance between the maintenance of reasonable connection distances to planned transmission infrastructure and opportunities to unlock new energy generation in areas with strong resource potential”.
“We have worked with a range of stakeholders to prepare the draft declaration in a way that considers local priorities and values, land-use planning, investor interest and the legislative requirements,” EnergyCo said.
“The refined boundary for the South-West REZ geographic area seeks to deliver a balanced and optimal outcome, considering the likely technical and economic feasibility issues for renewable energy and storage project developments, network infrastructure considerations, land-use constraints, and stakeholder views.”
While the South-West REZ is to deliver at least 2.5GW of new network capacity, EnergyCo said the final declaration, which is expected to be announced later this year, could specify additional generation, storage and network infrastructure.
The South-West REZ is one of five REZs planned to help replace the state’s ageing coal-fired power stations, with four of its five fossil-fuelled power plants expected to close in the next 15 years, starting with the 1,680MW Liddell Power Station in 2023-24.
REZs will also be developed in the New England, Hunter-Central Coast, Illawarra and Central-West Orana regions and are expected to bring 12GW of renewable energy and 2GW of storage online.
EnergyCo said the South-West REZ is a significant undertaking and will take several years to plan, design and build and will most likely be delivered in stages.
The state government is seeking feedback on the draft declaration which will remain on exhibition until 22 April 2022.
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