A 290MW solar farm planned for construction in New South Wales coal country in the greater Hunter region has won the final green light from the state government’s department of planning.
The $431 million Wollar solar farm, which would also have a 30MW/30MWh battery storage system, was approved by the NSW planning minister late last month, for construction between the towns of Denman and Mudgee.
The project, which is expected to create up to 320 construction jobs, is being developed by the Australian company of the same name, Wollar Solar Development Pty Ltd, which was established in 2017 to build utility-scale solar generation projects.
According to a company brochure, Wollar Solar’s management team – names are not mentioned – is “proficient” in transmission network connection planning, renewable project financing and in developing and operating large scale projects in Australia and internationally.
In its notice of decision, the minister for planning said the state significant project would generate enough electricity to power around 108,000 homes and assist in transitioning the electricity sector from coal and gas-fired power stations to renewable energy.
In this particular case, that would include AGL Energy’s Hunter region-based Liddell coal plant, which has been the subject of some controversy lately, amid speculation the federal government is planning to push out the ageing plant’s retirement by three years, to 2026.
A recent draft report from the Commonwealth-led Liddell Taskforce found that extending the life of the 50-year old power plant – which is currently scheduled to close in 2023 – would cost an additional $300 million to keep just two units in operation until 2026.
The federal Coalition, while reported by Sky News to be considering how to keep the 1680MW plant open until 2026, has said it will await the final findings of the Taskforce before making a final call.
NSW, for its part, is not keen on the extension, with state energy minister Matt Kean telling budget estimates in Sydney on Friday the Hunter Valley coal-fired power plant was “a very old bit of kit” that “obviously becomes more dangerous” as it ages.