Transgrid has confirmed that works have begun on the $1.8 billion New South Wales (NSW) section of the 900-kilometre Project EnergyConnect that will link the energy grids of NSW, South Australia (SA) and Victoria, and support the development of new wind, solar PV and energy storage projects.
Project EnergyConnect, a joint venture between Transgrid and SA network operator ElectraNet, will link Wagga Wagga in southwest NSW to Robertstown in SA via Buronga, with an additional ‘spur’ link between Buronga and Red Cliffs in northwest Victoria. The interconnector will provide 800MW of nominal transfer capacity in both directions and is forecast to unlock some 5.3GW of new renewable energy projects.
The project shapes as a critical link in the National Electricity Market (NEM) with proponents claiming it will enhance power system security and allow for the further development and integration of renewable generation into the nation’s main grid.
Transgrid chief executive officer Brett Redman, who was among those who attended a ground-breaking ceremony in Buronga in NSW’s far west on Tuesday to mark the start of construction, said the project “will help deliver the grid of the future”.
“EnergyConnect is a once-in-a-generation transmission project that will help to revolutionise the National Electricity Market,” he said. “The project will be a key component of the future grid, which will enable the integration of renewable generation and support the decarbonisation of the nation’s economy.”
Redman said the project, Australia’s biggest electricity interconnector built to date, would increase wholesale electricity competition and help drive down electricity prices.
“Once completed, the project is expected to save NSW energy customers $180 million a year,” he said.
Transgrid is building the 700km section of the transmission link stretching from Wagga Wagga to the SA border. ElectraNet commenced construction of the 200km SA portion of the project, from the border to Robertstown, in February.
ElectraNet interim chief executive Rainer Korte said the project will improve energy security in both states and help accelerate the transition to a grid based around wind, solar and storage.
“EnergyConnect is a landmark project of national significance that will enable more renewable energy and improve the affordability, reliability, and security of electricity supply,” he said. “We are delighted to see the start of construction on this critical project in both South Australia and NSW.”
The project is being built for Transgrid by construction partner SecureEnergy. Early works on the western section have already commenced with major works set to begin next month. The first stage of the works include the construction of a 135km transmission line between Buronga and the SA border, a 22km link to the Victorian border and an expansion of the existing substation at Buronga.
SecureEnergy project director David Whatmough said the size of the project creates significant employment opportunities with an estimated 1,500 jobs to be created during construction.
“The scale of the project means we will engage a workforce which is on an unprecedented scale for a transmission asset construction project in this country,” he said.
“EnergyConnect is one of the first of many that will change the industry across Australia and represents a significant part of the transition taking place in the energy sector.
“From a power engineering construction perspective, it provides a fabulous opportunity to grow the next generation of people who want to work in this industry.”
Project EnergyConnect will involve the installation of more than 9,000 kilometres of cabling, and the erection of 1,500 new transmission towers, using more than 30,000 tonnes of steel. It’s estimated more than 60,000 cubic metres of concrete footings will be poured for the transmission towers and planned substation works which will include upgrades to two existing sites and development of a third site.
Construction of the eastern portion of the project, spanning Buronga to Wagga Wagga, is expected to start in 2023, with the full project expected to be completed by 2024.
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