NSW has formally declared the second of at least five planned renewable energy zones, as it continues to roll out its decade-long strategy of replacing most, if not all, of its legacy coal fired power stations.
The state government’s infrastructure roadmap has identified at least five REZs across the state and taken soundings of project interest in most, and has been overwhelmed by the response from developers of wind, solar and storage projects.
On Friday it “declared” the New England REZ, based around Armidale in the state’s north, just two months after doing the same with the Central-West Orana REZ.
Other Zones are planned for Hunter central Coast region, the South West, and the Illawarra, and possibly also some offshore zones to support the roll out of offshore and floating wind farms.
“REZs are the modern-day equivalent of a power station, combining low cost renewables with back-up energy from storage and transmission to deliver cheap, reliable and clean energy,” said James Hay, the CEO of Energy Corporation of NSW, which has carriage over the projects.
“It’s phenomenal to get this REZ declared as New England has some of the best natural energy resources in the country, including some of the state’s best potential sites for pumped-hydro and strong investor interest.”
The New England REZ originally aimed for around 8GW of wind, solar and storage capacity, but was swamped with proposals amounting to more than four times that much.
Hay expects more than $10 billion in private investment, around 830 operational jobs, as well as 1,250 construction jobs each year. Several pumped hydro projects in the REZ are also competing for a place in the market.
The declaration for New England REZ is the first step in formalising the REZ under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020. It sets out the intended network capacity (size), geographical area (location) and infrastructure that will make up the REZ.
Hay said EnergyCo NSW has and will continue to work with a range of stakeholders in the New England region to deliver the REZ in a way that considers local priorities and values, land use planning, investor interest and the legislative requirements.
“This is great news for the region as the REZ will help drought-proof traditional farming communities and provide new income streams for landholders that host electricity infrastructure,” he said, adding that lease payments to landholders could amount to around $660 million over the next two decades.