The NSW government has put out the call to developers of gigawatts of large-scale solar and wind generation, as well as of load, storage and network infrastructure, to register their interest in populating another of its designated Renewable Energy Zones,
The South-West REZ is one of at least five renewable energy zones planned by the NSW Coalition government to replace its ageing coal fleet, most of which is expected to retire in the next 10 years.
Liddell will close in 2023, Vales Point and Eraring by 2032, and Bayswater and Mt Piper in the following years, to be replaced by wind, solar and storage in what will be one of the quickest transitions from a coal dominated grid to a renewables one.
Even the federal government, having demonised the thought of a 50 per cent renewables share as “economy wrecking” in the lead up to the last election, now assumes in its latest emissions forecasts that NSW will boast an 84 per cent renewables share by 2030.
The proposed South-West REZ will be based around Hay, and has been chosen due to an abundance of high-quality solar resources, its proximity to the major grid upgrade project EnergyConnect, its land-use compatibility, and a strong pipeline of proposed projects.
A standout in that pipeline is the massive 2.5GW wind, solar and battery storage hub proposed recently by Spark Renewables, part of the listed group that also owns half shares in local networks in Victoria and South Australia and a 15% stake in NSW transmission company Transgrid.
EnergyCo, which is leading the delivery of the NSW REZs for the government, said on Thursday that it was reaching out to developers through a formal Registration of Interest (ROI) process, to better understand the scale, location and types of projects interested in connecting to the South-West REZ.
While no target amount of new generation capacity has been specified by EnergyCo, it notes that the grid upgrade by Transgrid and ElectraNet, as well as an upgrade to the transmission line between Wagga Wagga and Dinawan, are expected to unlock up to 1.2GW of additional transmission capacity to support the REZ.
The response to other renewable energy zones ROIs has been overwhelming. NSW sought 3GW in the central west REZ and got 27GW of proposals, and sought 8GW in the New England REZ and was “swamped” by more than 34GW of wind, solar and storage projects.
“We are seeking information on any project that will have a significant impact on the transmission network within, adjacent or connected to the South-West REZ,” EnergyCo said.
“This is not limited to energy generation or storage projects. This extends out to potential changes to loads in this region or innovative network infrastructure solutions, as these play an equally critical role in network planning.”
Already, changes have been made to the geographic boundary of the South-West REZ (see map above), including an extension of the western boundary towards Buronga, to encompass strong wind resource potential near project EnergyConnect.
The eastern and northern boundaries have also been moved to “balance interactions with existing agricultural land uses,” and ensure reasonable connection distances to planned transmission infrastructure.
EnergyCo said it expected to continue to refine the boundaries of the South-West REZ as it progressed towards a final declaration of the Zone, and for this reason encouraged all prospective projects – both inside and outside the updated boundary – to respond to the ROI.
The South-West REZ ROI will be open for four weeks to Wednesday 24 November 2021. For more information on the South-West REZ and to submit a dedicated ROI form, click here.