A potential 300MW solar farm with a 600MWh battery energy storage system founded by a group of local farmers in Bungendore, New South Wales, has gained backing from the federal government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation and investment company Octopus Australia.
The “agri-solar” and big battery project got a start in the development pipeline a decade ago with Infigen Energy, when it was known as the Capital solar farm project.
It has since been taken up by the collective of farmers, with support from Stride Renewables, NGH and Axcentium. It is currently awaiting state environmental and development approvals.
A director at Stride, Luke Osborne, is also a neighbour of project and he and his cousins, Jane and Dominic Osborne, are among the project founders and landowners.
As the project website details, the solar farm will co-exist with existing lamb production, which will be accommodated by placing the rows of panels around six metres apart, allowing for grazing as well as for the optimal performance of the planned single-axis tracking system.
“From the outset our goal was to co-locate renewable energy with regenerative agriculture and carbon sequestration while maintaining sheep production,” Dominic Osborne said in a statement on Friday.
“We also had a clear vision of how we wanted to involve our local community in the project. Our relationship with Octopus and the CEFC means our commitment to create a more sustainable future for our family farm and positive outcomes for our community has taken an exciting step forward.”
The investment by Octopus and the CEFC – the federal government’s green bank has said it will contribute up to $5 million in funding to the project – builds on the joint venture, formed last year to underwrite two large-scale solar and battery storage projects proposed for development in Victoria’s Gippsland region.
This NSW project has the added advantage of an existing high-voltage transmission line crossing the site, and thus will not require major transmission works or permitting.
“The development at Blind Creek is a significant opportunity for solar and storage generation between two major load centres and in a state which will see some coal-fired generation retiring in the short term, requiring significant new generation to support security and reliability,” said CEFC executive director Monique Miller.
Miller also noted that the project continued the green bank’s strategy of maintaining existing regional farming activities in conjunction with renewable energy generation projects.
Octopus Australia’s head of investment and development, Sonia Teitel, said the group saw Blind Creek as a “huge oppotunity” in large-scale battery storage in NSW, and to support the state’s transition to renewables, and away from coal.