Network operator Transgrid is calling for community feedback after unveiling its preferred route for the VNI West interconnector, a proposed new 500 kV double circuit transmission line connecting the high-voltage electricity grids in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria.
Transgrid is responsible for the NSW component of the project. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Transmission Company Victoria (TCV) are responsible for the Victorian stretch of the $3.6 billion (USD 2.16 billion) 800-kilometre project.
The preferred route for the NSW component would see the interconnector weave its way west from the Dinawan substation in the Murray River region before turning south around of the town of Moulamein and wending its way to Murrabit on the NSW/Victoria border. From there it will snake its way south to the town of Bulgana in central Victoria.
The recommended preferred route, Route C, is one of four short-listed routes detailed in the newly published draft route report.
Transgrid said the route, the northern most option, best caters to local constraints identified by stakeholders and the community and will have the lowest impact on irrigated agricultural lands.
“[Route C] provides the greatest opportunity to co-locate the new transmission line with existing infrastructure assets, like railway corridors and roads minimising the need for building extensive new access tracks and maximising land use efficiency,” it said.
The network operator said the route has a comparable length to the other options considered and allows for the straightest alignment compared to the other route options, reducing construction and maintenance costs.
Transgrid Project Director Colin Mayer said the draft route report outlines all options, and details the benefits and risks for each.
“We strongly encourage people to review the information and provide us with their feedback on this critical transmission project,” he said.
Feedback is sought by 4 March 2024.
Transgrid said the final route will be confirmed in late March, signalling the start of studies to assess environmental and social impacts as part of the formal environmental assessment and approvals process.
Planning is also continuing on the Victorian stretch of the project with TCV having published a report in October showing the draft corridor for the Victorian component of the transmission line project. TCV has narrowed the area of interest for the proposed transmission line to width of about two kilometres.
TCV Project Director Sam Magee said the corridor, which runs from the Murray River through to Bulgana, will be narrowed considerably through ongoing consultation over the next two years, from an average width of about 2km to an easement of 70 metres to 120 metres.
“We recognise that VNI West has created uncertainty in communities and has been stressful for many people. We’d like to thank all those involved who continue to provide information to reduce the impact of this new transmission line,” he said.
The project is expected to be implemented by 2028.
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