Spark teams with Sydney University on 1 GW green energy hub


Clean energy developer and operator Spark Renewables has announced it will team with the University of Sydney to investigate and develop the Wattle Creek Energy Hub, a 1 GW wind, solar and battery energy storage project being planned near Goulburn in southeast New South Wales (NSW).

If approved, Spark says the Wattle Creek Energy Hub could generate up to 500 MW of electricity from solar and wind, providing enough clean energy to power about 170,000 households per year. The proposal also includes the installation of a large-scale battery energy storage system with a capacity of up to 500 MWh which could be dispatched on command to provide a range of network support services.

The project is to be built on the university’s 6,200-hectare Arthursleigh property, about 12 kilometres northeast of Marulan, approximately two hours’ drive southwest of Sydney.

Spark, which owns 49% stakes in electricity distribution networks in Victoria, South Australia, and 15% of NSW transmission company TransGrid, said the proposed site is strategically positioned to make use of an existing high voltage substation located adjacent to deliver clean, renewable energy from the energy hub to the university, local electricity users and the rest of NSW.

Spark Renewables Chief Executive Officer Anthony Marriner said the proposed project is in the early stages of planning with work to commence on preliminary studies and consultation in the coming weeks.

The Wattle Creek Energy Hub will be built on the Sydney University’s Arthursleigh property in the NSW Southern Highlands.

Image: NSW Landcare

A key element of the proposed energy hub is a two-acre “test-bed facility,” which would enable the university to undertake research on new and emerging technologies, including further testing of battery systems developed by Gelion, a company spun out from the university in 2015.

University of Sydney Pro-Vice Chancellor Julie Cairney said the university and Spark have also agreed to an ongoing research agreement throughout the life of the energy hub, collaborating on initiatives related to clean energy in the fields of science, engineering, business and economics.

“This long-term partnership with Spark Renewables will support a research program and infrastructure for the translation of research into innovative renewable energy technologies,” she said.

Spark said the design of the project will also ensure that the university’s existing commercial research and teaching activities can continue on the Arthursleigh farm, with the wind turbines to occupy only a small proportion of the property and the solar farm designed to allow sheep to graze underneath the solar panels.

Spark’s existing portfolio includes the Bomen Solar Farm.

Image: Spark Infrastructure

The Wattle Creek Energy Hub is part of a major push into the renewable generation and storage sector for Spark Infrastructure which was recently acquired by a consortium led by United States-based global investment company Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) in a deal valued at $5.2 billion (USD 3.7 billion).

Determined to capitalise on growth opportunities presented by the transition of Australia’s electricity market to renewable energy sources, Spark is targeting more than $1 billion of investment in renewable energy generation by 2025.

The company’s operational portfolio comprises the 100 MW Bomen Solar Farm near Wagga Wagga in southwest NSW, while its development portfolio includes a number of wind, solar and storage projects in the National Electricity Market.

This includes the proposed 2.5 GW Dinawan Energy Hub, a hybrid wind, solar and battery storage energy project it is progressing in in southwest NSW.

The Riverina region is also the site for the company’s proposed 160 MW Mates Gully Solar Farm and 1 GW Mallee Wind Farm. Spark is also planning to develop the Yorke Peninsula Energy Hub (formerly known as the Ceres Wind Farm), an up to 850 MW hybrid wind, solar, and battery storage project proposed for South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

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