Victorian network operator AusNet has unveiled its preferred route for a crucial new transmission network upgrade that is hoped will help revive investment in new renewable energy projects in Western Victoria.
The Western Victoria Transmission Network Project, being developed by AusNet’s commercial division Mondo, will involve the establishment of two new networks links; a 220kV overhead line from Bulgana in Western Victoria to a new terminal north of Ballarat, and a second 500kV line from Ballarat to a new Sydenham terminal station on Melbourne’s western edge.
It is hoped the new transmission network link will help to alleviate issues of network congestion and boost system strength after a flood of new wind and solar projects in the Western Victorian region encountered significant difficulties – facing a mix of connection delays our curtailment of output.
Around 4,000MW of wind and solar projects has already been constructed in Western Victoria, and AusNet says the new transmission link will help unlock a further 900MW of renewable energy capacity in the region.
AusNet has also flagged the possibility of upgrading the transmission network link between Bulgana and Waubra, from 220kV to 500kV, as part of a proposed Renewable Energy Zone being progressed by the Victorian government.
AusNet has been engaged by the Australian Energy Market Operator to develop the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project and has been undertaking a process to gradually narrow down its preferred route, with AEMO identifying the project as part of its 2020 Integrated System Plan.
Construction is expected to commence sometime in 2022, and the network link expected to be fully operational by 2025.
AusNet’s executive project director, Stephanie McGregor, said that the new transmission line was urgently needed and would help unlock further investment in clean energy projects in the region.
“This project will support Victoria’s transition to a cleaner energy future by unlocking critical renewable energy projects in the region,” McGregor said. “We continue to engage with and listen to landholders and communities. We will continue to consult over the corridor announced today and the right placement for the proposed transmission line within that corridor.”
AusNet will look to get out ahead of likely opposition to the transmission project, becoming the latest in a growing number of transmission projects attracting resistance from locals in regions that will host the overhead cables. Some residents within Western Victoria have already expressed opposition to the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project – with a rather blunt message.
McGregor said that the route chosen and the location of the transmission network infrastructure would be informed by consultation with landholders and would take into account existing residents and significant environmental and cultural sites before an exact route for the network infrastructure is decided on.
“Nobody knows the land like the landholders themselves. We will work with them to ensure agriculture and other land use can continue along the line with minimal disruption,” McGregor said.
“We have experience working alongside many businesses, farmers and communities across the state who already live, graze cattle and operate businesses under our network of 6,500 km of existing transmission lines.”
“Ongoing engagement continues to be our priority. As the EES progresses, there will be many opportunities for landowners and the community to provide further input as the process continues,” McGregor added.
Around 300 jobs are expected to be created during the construction of the project.