NSW eyes 77,000MW of wind and solar as it prepares shift beyond coal

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NSW says three regional energy zones could host 77,000MW of wind and solar capacity – enough to meet demands of modern energy system.

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The New South Wales government has identified three key regional energy zones that could provide 77,000MW (77GW) of wind and solar capacity – enough, it says, to provide for a “modern energy system”.

The NSW estimates are contained in its submission to the Integrated System Plan, a major work undertaken by the Australian Energy Market Operator to plan for a grid that will likely be dominated by renewables in the near future.

The NSW submission identifies three key renewable energy zones – in New England, the central west, and in the south-west – all are located in federal National Party seats, including those of the past and current NP leaders, the climate-skeptics Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack.

The NSW Coalition government considers the south-west region to be the richest resource, with some 40GW of solar and 3GW of wind capacity that could be unlocked with upgraded transmission lines.

“This zone is ideally located to unlock a large pipeline of renewable energy projects currently in the project pipeline between Griffith and Deniliquin, as well as to open up areas further west with even stronger resources,” the submission says.

The central-west zone is seen to hold solar and wind capacities of 15,000MW and 3,000MW respectively, and already hosts the country’s largest solar farm, Nyngan (102MW, but soon to be overtaken), with five   under construction and another 3,400MW approved or seeking planning approval.

The NSW report identifies 12,000MW of solar capacity and 4,000MW of wind capacity, and is already host to the White Rock wind and solar projects, the Sapphire wind project (and planned solar and battery additions), and other projects.

NSW is currently the state with the biggest load of any state grid, as well as the greatest dependence on coal-fired generation, and on electricity imports from neighbouring states, particularly Queensland.

It says that developing these energy zones can place downward pressure on wholesale energy prices and support regional development.

“The NSW Government is committed to a secure, affordable and clean energy future for households and businesses and supports an orderly, private-sector led transition to a modern energy system,” it says.

It notes that its coal fleet will be diminished with the expected retirement of ageing coal-fired generators in the 2020s and 2030s.

This, combined with increasing demand for energy at peak times ,will require the development of replacement generation capacity.

But planning is essential. The government says there are some 15,000MW of proposals already in place, but much in areas where there is no grid capacity to absorb. Hence the need for planning renewable energy zones or hubs.

“Combined, the three priority Energy Zones could unlock 77,000 megawatts (MW) of new generation capacity. Complemented by emerging energy technologies, energy efficiency and demand response, this would be more than enough generation to meet future energy needs.”

The push for renewable energy zones has also been embraced by Transgrid, the operator of the main transmission lines, which has argued that the shift to 100 per cent renewables is perfectly feasible and affordable.

AEMO is also a strong supporter of renewable energy zones, and its Integrated System Plan is viewed as a critical component – and is looking at scenarios that contemplate a 50 per cent reduction in electricity emissions by 2030, far beyond that entertained by the current federal government.

Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.

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18 Comments
  1. Joe 9 months ago

    Ah, didn’t take long for Bananabee Joyce ( via this new proposal in his electorate of New England ) to get a fresh mentio in these very fine pages of Renew Economy. He doesn’t believe in RE or the climate change but he was always ready with his shiny shovel to do a first sodding in front of the assembled media.

  2. tsport100 9 months ago

    77GW?? Demand on the entire national grid averages 22GW.

    • solarguy 9 months ago

      Demand and generating capacity are two different things.

    • David Osmond 9 months ago

      77 GW of renewables for NSW does sound a bit excessive, however it is worth noting that the AEMO, UNSW and ANU 100% renewable studies suggest the NEM will about 70 GW in total of wind and solar to go 100% renewable. Of course, we also need a fair bit of storage so that when the wind and solar are producing more than we need, the excess can usually be stored for later use.

      • solarguy 9 months ago

        Well done David, have cigar!

      • Giles 9 months ago

        Well, they might not need all the 77GW, but it’s there, which is their point. Also, by the time the last coaler goes, there will be a lot of EV cars and trucks about. maybe some electric planes and ferries too.

        • Hettie 9 months ago

          Excellent point, Giles.

        • tsport100 9 months ago

          A high speed rail network would be nice too..

        • RobertO 9 months ago

          Hi Giles, David Osborne make the point that the NEM need about 70 GW and this is just NSW. If we are to go 100% re we will need about 70 GW in NSW alone and the excess RE (after all the electrical storage is filled) converted into the hydrogen cycle to keep the gas generators green for standby (man-made CH4 gas). The gas has several days of storage already built in. My own thoughts are that will not go to 100%, we will go to 98% plus or minus 1% by 2030 (I suspect that the change in Fed Gov to Labour / Greens in 2019 and their target of 50% RE will overshoot to about 75% about 2022 for just electricity and Batteries for cars/trucks/trains and tractors will follow, but will slow the electrical conversion down, but transport will not protect coal (which will be the major loser over gas).

    • Hettie 9 months ago

      No good having only enough juice for average demand.
      It’s peak demand you have to cater for, and more, in case a coal clunker or three go down at 16:00 on a Friday in February.

      • RobertO 9 months ago

        Hi Hettie, very good, and there are other things that will help us. Demand Management will drop the peak between 5 % and 10%, however “Heat”, will increase demand about 3% to 5%. Population growth will increase demand but Technology (smart appaliances) will drop demand more that the population growth. Even more efficiencent buildings will drop demand. One major factor that most people have yet to discuss is reliablity, we current sit at about 95% – 99.997% (say 18 days to 15 minutes some area are prone to poor services and some city/ larger town are very high), and some pollies want to take us to 99.999% or 5 minutes per annum and we still have storms and lighting strikes. I think that we should be aim for 99.9% or say 9 hr per year.

        • Hettie 9 months ago

          We had a blackout here the other night , 11th, I think .
          Big area of the Northern Tablelands. Bendemeer to Guyra, Walcha Road to Invergowrie. Lasted about an hour. Said to have been cause by a bat across the power lines. Could well have been a lightening strike.
          There will always be events with the potential to cause “loss of service”
          Unless the grid becomes such a complex web that no matter where it is broken, there is always a pathway for supply to reach every point of consumption.
          But that doesn’t mean high tension lines, surely?
          Dunno. Any answers?

          • RobertO 9 months ago

            Hi Hettie, starting with DR, our pollies need to pass laws to make Australian Energy Market Commission (AMEC) activate laws (which I believe there already started on the laws driven be AEMO work already). The networks will then use software in all new electrical equipment to control usage. (Simple example was laws for “Seatbelts”). All new stuff has to have it. When the networks are doing it, a simple signal control say RCAC to reduce usage by 20%. (so if your unit is 5 Kw, it effectively operates at 4 Kw during period of near peak demand, maybe only 10 days – 20 days pa and for only for hours at a time (usually about 4 hr each day due to heat). In a RE network that may need to change if we have very large weather pattern that cause the loss of generation in very large areas. In terms of the grid and RE, some points to note are that there 15000 MW of ideas that are in area that cannot support them so some of those may need new lines. If you build close to the coast (where do the people live) what happens if the weather patterns change (if cloudy windless days settle over the main RE areas). Tas is good for wind and changing the hydro to Peaking Hydro suggest Bass link 2 may be a good idea at $1.1 billion (approx. and if you’re doing that anyway why not include King Island as a community benefit program for about $1.2 Billion which give them optical fibre and removes 2.6 billion litres of Diesel fuel). Batteries are a really good idea, but they are not good at long term support of RE generation (when RE is low for long periods say wind drops off say 20 average generation is lost for a week PHES is needed and some PHES need to be longer than 12 hr (most will be under 8 hr in the short term). To me there are many good answers, and we will use some parts of some answer to make the network for RE, however there is one answer which stands out above all others when it comes to RE, “We have no plan on how we are going to change over to RE”. The she be rite attitude will lead to power chaos with anybody whom can afford to leave the grid (home solar and battery) doing it, which leave people out. It’s all Australians that need to be included in how we change over. My preference is find a way to employ Australians to build better Australia to live in.

          • Hettie 9 months ago

            Agree completely. My expectation is that with air con, the biggest drain on supply at peak times, the network sends a signal to the machine to change the setting by one or two degrees just for the duration of the peak. Off peak hot water style. A million machines reduce the load they are drawing, and the crisis goes away.
            Retrofitting would be a huge task, but as you say, all new installs should have mandatory DR enabled, and those who want to retrofit could be subsidised or even paid in full by the network. Far cheaper than more gold plating.

          • RobertO 9 months ago

            Hi Hettie on the RCAC it software that controls the compressor motor and as such it does not change the temp settings. It quit possible that all currently sold RCAC units sold in Australia already are setup (and may have been since about 2001 after WA made it law, because it’s software, a few lines of code it’s cheaper to make all unit comply, just in case they are sold in WA). It’s also possibe that NSW alone has more that 1 million units but there is a cost to the networks, both in actual cost (maybe $1 million) and then there is the loss of profit to the generators (as they will lose some of the really high wholesale prices they charge and my guessimate could be $100 million a year which is why AEMC is trying to protect generators)

          • Hettie 9 months ago

            Ok. Just talking to the Panasonic Rep. As you say, different states have different regs. Qld mandates DR ready NSW not . Any rebates are up to the power retailer. No he doesn’t know who does it. Have not yet called Powershop to check. Lunch first. All Panasonic AC units are DR ready. The model I’m getting has COP 4.5. Not the highest, but pretty good.
            And have you seen Katherine Murphy’s latest offering in the Guardian, saying AGL’s plans to replace Liddell’s output will not be sufficient unless it implements the whole plan. Well, duh!.
            Why not say it will be sufficient unless they squib it.
            As usual, no comments allowed.
            Does that woman not know how biased she is? She has been told often enough.
            If you want an excuse for a hissy fit, you need go no further.
            LUNCH!!!

  3. Hettie 9 months ago

    Now that is a surprise. A good one. Perhaps it’s only in Canberra that the RWNJs rule.

  4. Nick 9 months ago

    Yes lets build it!

Comments are closed.