Neoen Australia is pursuing plans to build a 500MW wind, solar and battery storage hub in what it expects will be a new renewable energy zone created in the New South Wales region of New England – and right in the heart of National Party MP Barnaby Joyce’s electorate.
The hybrid renewables project, called the Thunderbolt Energy Hub, proposes to combine around 380MW of wind power, 120MW of solar and a 400MW battery (MWh not yet specified) on land between the towns of Bendemeer and Kentucky.
The project is one of two proposed in the closing months of 2020 by French developer Neoen for NSW, including the 500MW Great Western Battery project – a standalone big battery that will be located in the Lithgow region and linked to Transgrid’s transmission network.
The proposed Thunderbolt site, which covers territory in both the Tamworth Regional Council and Uralla Shire Council, sits in the New England REZ, which was identified by the NSW government as as potentially supplying 8,000 MW of renewable energy.
As a scoping report commissioned by Neoen notes, the huge potential of the region has a lot to do with its “ideal” location, close to existing high voltage power lines that connect the NSW east coast and Queensland.
The sheer scale and number of the projects is revealed in this map below, with blue representing projects already operating, red under construction, purple those with approval, and green “under assessment.”
Less than ideal, however, is the REZ’s position in the electorate of former Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce; a fierce campaigner for new coal-fired power generation capacity and an indefatigable critic of all things renewable.
In January, Joyce used his Facebook platform to cast aspersions at renewable energy over power outages in Sydney’s Northern Beaches region, despite the fact that those outages were actually caused by power line faults and nothing to do with any source of generation, green or black.
And last month, he sought to highjack proposed government legislation, moving his own amendment to a bill in an attempt to open up the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to investments in new coal plants.
Intriguingly, Joyce proposed to enable the CEFC to make investments in “high-intensity, low-emissions” coal fired power stations, putting his own twist on the equally questionable “high-intensity” low-emissions (HELE) coal plants the fossil fuel lobby likes to claim could be palatable in the midst of a climate emergency.
How Joyce might feel about Neoen’s plans to install both solar and a massive wind farm in the New England region remains to be Tweeted, or Facebooked. Either way, Thunderbolt is a major project that will require a good amount of community engagement from Neoen.
According to the November scoping report, which relates to the solar farm and battery components of the Hub, the predominantly agricultural land earmarked for the project is owned by three separate landowners and also takes in some government-owned land.
The report also notes that there are 17 dwellings located within 2km of the project area, of which two are landholders involved in the solar and battery project, five are involved in the Thunderbolt Wind Farm Project and 10 are non-involved dwellings.
Neoen says the overall energy generation capacity of the Thunderbolt Energy Hub (including the wind farm) would be roughly 500MW, with the potential to power 276,830 homes once fully operational.