Australian renewables zone attracts 27 GW of solar, wind, battery proposals

Australia, Central-West Orana zone

Plans to deliver 3 GW of firmed renewable energy in the Australian state of New South Wales have generated massive interest from prospective developers. The state government has  received 113 registrations of interest, totaling 27 GW and valued at AU$38 billion (US$26.4 billion), PV Magazine reports.

The program is designed to unlock a huge pipeline of large-scale renewable energy and storage projects in the state’s first renewable energy zone (REZ), in the run-up to the planned retirement of its aging thermal-generation fleet. To support the development of the Central-West Orana zone, the government has vowed to ramp up funding to levels that are four times higher than originally planned.

The pilot zone aims to deliver 3,000 MW of firmed wind and solar generation, which the state government has identified as “the cheapest type of new reliable generation.” It is expected to generate AU$4.4 billion in investment and create 450 construction jobs, while pushing down electricity prices.

The project is part of the state government’s long-term plan to deliver three such zones across the state. The authorities aim to build on the NSW Transmission Infrastructure Strategy, in line with the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan (AEMO).

Coordinated approach
The new funds will be used to coordinate renewable energy deployment within the zone and help identify locations where new transmission infrastructure will be required.

“By coordinating development in a strategic way, REZs also help us get the land use planning right, and renewables built in places that work for the community, not just developers,” Deputy Premier John Barilaro said.

The funds will also help relevant bodies make strategic decisions to bring multiple new generators online in areas with strong renewables resources and community support. “The Energy Corporation of NSW will oversee the development of the REZ, and this new funding will enable it to coordinate the technical design and planning processes, lead community engagement and oversee the local benefit sharing process,” Minister for Energy Matt Kean said.

To assess the technical and commercial options for the development of new high-voltage transmission lines, a detailed feasibility study will be carried out by TransGrid. On Tuesday, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced AU$5 million in funding for TransGrid’s AU$16.2 million scooping study, in support of a major project that can demonstrate a pathway for future REZs across the National Electricity Market.

“This study is expected to provide a pathway to achieve Australia’s first true Renewable Energy Zone and provide a blueprint for how others can be created in the future, helping to unlock investment in renewable energy projects, secure new regional jobs and cheaper, emission free energy,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller.

The coordination of new generation and new transmission infrastructure investment is expected to deliver multiple benefits for local communities and the state’s entire energy landscape.

“Investment in the new infrastructure will enable renewable energy providers to connect to the grid and enable more affordable, reliable and clean energy for New South Wales customers,” Transgrid CEO Paul Italiano said.

Construction of the pilot REZ in the state’s Central-West region is set to begin in 2022, following extensive consultations with local communities.

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