The New South Wales government has issued a call for 3,000MW or more of potential wind, solar and storage project proposals looking to join the state’s first Renewable Energy Zone.
The Central-West region, centred around the town of Dubbo, will serve as the state’s first pilot Renewable Energy Zone, and the NSW government hoping to receive information from potential project developers about the scale and type of projects that could be established in the region.
The government has asked proponents to respond to a ‘Registration of Interest’, to kick start consultation on the future Renewable Energy Zone, and to begin coordinating planning for new infrastructure investment.
The New South Wales government hopes to attract as much as 3,000MW of new generation capacity in the Central-West zone by the mid-2020s, worth an estimated $4.4 billion in investment for the state and creating 450 long-term construction jobs in the region.
In the government’s Net Zero Plan, the Berejiklian government has outlined ambitions for up to three Renewable Energy Zones, with another two envisioned for the South-West and New England regions of the state, unlocking up to up to 17,700MW of new generation capacity from wind, solar and storage projects.
The plan sees the NSW government stand apart from its Coalition colleagues in the federal parliament, by showing it recognises that wind and solar are cheapest sources of new electricity generation capacity, and will be key to replacing generators soon to be exiting the market, like the Liddell coal-fired power station.
“I want NSW to have some of the cheapest, most reliable and cleanest electricity in the world. Bringing more renewables into our grid in a strategic, coordinated manner is fundamental to achieving this goal. That’s why we’re working hard to make the Central-West of NSW the home of Australia’s first coordinated Renewable Energy Zone,” NSW energy minister Matt Kean told RenewEconomy.
“The Registration of Interest process is an important next step to hear from proponents about existing and proposed energy, storage and emerging technology projects that could form part of the REZ. This information, which will include project details, location, type, size and development status, will support technical design, planning and further market engagement on the REZ.”
“Formal project proposals are not being sought at this stage. As outlined in the NSW Electricity Strategy, the NSW Government will release an Expression of Interest and approach the market for competitive proposals at a later date.”
The idea of the Renewable Energy Zones being developed by the NSW government is for multiple large-scale renewable energy projects to be clustered into a region with good wind and solar availability, allowing for investments in new transmission network infrastructure and energy storage projects to be coordinated and shared between multiple projects.
“A [Renewable Energy Zone] involves the coordinated development of new grid infrastructure in energy rich areas to connect multiple renewable generators in the same location, supported by storage and other complementary technologies,” the NSW government has said.
“Renewable Energy Zones capitalise on economies of scale, unlocking new and cost-effective generation. They also provide increased opportunities for upfront strategic planning and early community engagement.”
The central west region is already host to a number of operating and under construction renewable energy projects, including the 110MW Beryl Solar Farm, 178MW the Mumbil Solar Farm and the 125MW Maryvale solar farm.
The NSW government has encouraged potential project proponents, as well as existing project operators, to register an interest with the government, to ensure all potential future projects are taken into account as the government begins assessing the infrastructure requirements of the zone.
The government expects to work with system planners, including the Australian Energy Market Operator, to ensure sufficient supporting infrastructure is constructed in an efficient manner.
Ultimately, the NSW government will look to use the information gathered to develop a plan for the Central-West Renewable Energy Zone and establish a market for competitive project proposals following consultation with communities in the region.
The NSW government expects that the coordination of the Central West Renewable Energy Zone will occur over the next couple of years, with the first projects under the plan expected to commence construction sometime in 2022.
Interested parties have until 5 June to respond to the Registration of Interest. Proponents of proposed, planned or operational renewable energy projects in the Central West Renewable Energy Zone are encouraged to register their interest.
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