The New South Wales (NSW) government announced on Thursday it had published new guidelines designed to make the assessment of large-scale solar projects clearer as the state looks to shore up a reliable energy supply ahead of the impending withdrawal of coal-fired generation assets.
The NSW government wants to see at least 12 GW of renewable energy generation projects developed before 2030 to fill the gap created by the exit of coal generation but Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said it is critical solar farms are built in the right areas to best benefit communities.
“There are 83 projects that have been approved or are in the planning pipeline, with a combined capacity to power 7 million homes,” he said. “That’s on top of the 18 large-scale solar energy farms, worth more than $30 million, which are operational.
“As solar energy becomes more and more common, it’s becoming increasingly important that solar farms are well designed and in appropriate locations,” Roberts continued. “Our revised guidelines help deal with emerging concerns and issues and assist applicants and the community to better understand the planning and engagement process – from choosing a site, to decommissioning a project and rehabilitating the land.”
The guidelines have been updated to include guidance on key issues including visual impacts, community benefit and the use of agricultural land.
The new guidelines encourage project developers to consider the agricultural capability of the land during the site selection process and where possible, to “avoid siting solar energy projects on important agricultural land.”
The release of the revised guidelines follows changes to planning rules late last year aimed at protecting the character and future growth potential of regional cities from renewable projects.
With four of the state’s five coal-fired power plants expected to close in the next 15 years, starting with the 1,680MW Liddell Power Station in 2023-24, NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean said solar farms will play a critical role in the state’s future electricity system.
“NSW has some of the best renewable energy resources anywhere in the world,” he said. “Harnessing their power will help us deliver cleaner and cheaper electricity to households and businesses around the state, slashing energy bills and boosting industry.”
“These guidelines will provide investors with the certainty they need to mobilise private capital and deliver the energy infrastructure of the 21st century.”
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