French energy giant EDF is looking to build up a portfolio of large scale solar assets in the Hunter Valley, with an eye on the new renewable energy zone planned for one of the country’s major coal regions.
The news was revealed by Hunter Valley miner Malabar Resources, which has previously announced plans for a 25MW solar farm on rehabilitated land near the old underground thermal coal mine at Maxwell.
On Thursday, Malabar said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with EDF Renewables to develop large scale renewable energy projects in the upper Hunter Valley.
It noted the strategic importance of the substantial transmission network in the Upper Hunter, which it said provides the opportunity to substantially increase renewable energy generation well beyond 25MW.
“We are very pleased to be partnering with a global leader in renewable energy,” Malabar chairman Wayne Seabrook said in a statement, although the company provided few details beyond that.
“Our partnership comes at an exciting time for renewable energy in the Hunter Valley after the NSW Government established the Hunter-Central Coast region as the state’s fourth Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) in late 2020”.
The NSW government in fact has five different renewable energy zones in mind, and has already been overwhelmed by the response to its first expressions of interest, which has attracted more than 60GW of large scale wind, solar and storage projects.
The first official auction is set to take place early next year in the Central West Orana zone, with the New England zone to follow soon afterwards.
The auction process is part of the state Liberal government’s long term plan to replace all the state’s coal generators – the biggest fleet in the country at more than 10GW – which energy minister Matt Kean has said could occur by 2030.
EDF is mostly known for operating the vast nuclear energy fleet in France, but has been rapidly expanding its renewable energy portfolio, which it has built up to more than 15,000MW in 22 different countries, and aims to build this to 60,000MW by 2030.
Earlier this year it revealed its first renewable energy play in Australia, the 280MW Banana range wind project i Queensland that also has planning approval for battery storage.
The Banana Range project is also located in the heart of another coal region, near Gladstone, and is also located close to the backbone of the major transmission line, and in the heart of a proposed central renewable energy zone.