Acting prime minister Barnaby Joyce has gotten out his shovel for a large solar farm for the first time as his electorate starts to transform into a major renewable energy hub.
Joyce, the member for New England and not the No 1 supporter of renewable energy, this week marked the start of construction at the 20MW White Rock solar farm near Glen Innes, just as the first turbines from the neighbouring 175MW White Rock wind farm began producing into the grid.
In all, that represents $440 million of investment for the local community, and will soon be joined by another $300 million from the Sapphire wind farm and other projects.
“It is positive news for the New England Electorate that the White Rock Solar Farm project construction is now commencing,” Joyce said in a statement, noting the $5.4 million provided by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (which the Coalition had tried to abolish).
“The Federal Coalition Government supports renewables and has a legislated and efficient renewable energy target, so supporting projects like the White Rock Solar Farm show that the Federal Government is serious about supporting renewable energy production to help secure the national grid.”
The $41.4 million solar farm will be part of the largest wind-solar hybrid plant, and will form a key part of the major renewable energy hub that Transgrid is trying to create in the region.
It is also part of one of two major “renewable energy” spines that the NSW Coalition government is trying to create to support renewable energy in regional NSW.
“With other projects like the Sapphire Wind Farm going ahead, it also shows that the New England is leading the way in renewable energy production and I will continue to advocate for the region as a growing power supplier for Australia,” Joyce said in his statement.
John Titchen, managing Director of Goldwind Australia said the solar- wind hybrid renewable energy facility is Goldwind’s second wind-solar hybrid project following the 10MW Gullen Solar project near Goulburn which is now at an advanced stage of construction.
Once fully operational, the 175 MW White Rock Wind Farm – the biggest project to be built so far in Australia on a “merchant model”, meaning that it gets revenue from selling electricity into the grid, rather than via a contract – will produce enough renewable energy to power about 75,000 homes, more than all the houses in the New England area.
Stage one of $400 million White Rock Wind Farm includes 70 turbines, a substation and eight-kilometre transmission line. Forty-seven turbines have been fully erected, with the installation of the remaining 23 turbines to occur over the next couple of months.
To hear our recent Energy Insiders Podcast with John Titchen, please click here.