Global wind turbine manufacturing giant Vestas has bought into the massive 4,000MW (4GW) Walcha Energy Project Project in New South Wales, the biggest and most ambitious renewable energy project in Australia’s main grid.
The deal revealed over the weekend will see Vestas take a majority stake in the Winterbourne wind farm, which could grow to up to 700MW and will be the principal wind farm component of the Walcha project.
The purchase comes as Walcha Energy – a joint venture between Energy Estate and Mirus Wind – also announced that it has submitted its scoping study for a 700MW solar farm, a 100MW/150MWh battery and its plans for a renewable energy hub at Uralla – in the New England area of NSW – to the state’s department of planning and environment.
The Walcha project, based around the town of the same name some 55kms south of Armidale, also comprises a pumped hydro power station to be located at the Dungowan Dam and in total would have capacity of up to 4GW of wind, solar and various forms of storage, making it fully dispatchable.
Arup has commenced work on the next phase of feasibility studies for the proposed pumped hydro energy storage project to be located at the Dungowan Dam.
Winterbourne is the first stage of the overall plan, and Vestas will now lead the development of the project, with Walcha Energy assisting with land, community engagement and grid strategy.
Vestas is also a partner in the even bigger $20 billion Asia Renewable Energy Hub project, along with CWP Renewables and Macquarie Group, which is looking at building 11GW of wind and solar to underpin local manufacturing and processing industries, and exporting green hydrogen to north Asia.
It is also building, with Alinta Energy, the Yandin wind farm in W.A, which is expected to have an Australia-leading capacity factor of around 50 per cent.
Energy Estate and its related company Renew Estate have been one of the more active players in the market, recently sealing a deal to sell the 120MW Bomen solar project to network company Spark Infrastructure, and signing Westpac and the Sydney Opera House to take the output from the solar farm as part of their moves to 100 per cent renewable electricity supply.
Vincent Dwyer, the principal of Energy Estate said the Vestas investment is a “giant step forward for the project.
“We are fortunate to be working Vestas as the world’s leading wind OEM to unlock the clean energy potential of Walcha, to foster responsible development in the REZ (renewable energy zone) and to enable new economic development opportunities in regional NSW in collaboration with the local community.”
The next step will be an environmental application, with a view to making a development application in 2020, and then construction with initial operations beginning in 2022.
The scoping study for the 700MW Salisbury solar farm, to be located on Salisbury Plains south east of Uralla, includes a 100MW/150MWh battery energy storage system, a new 330kV substation which will operate as a new grid ‘hub’ supporting the development of the New England Renewable Energy Zone, and associated transmission infrastructure.
The New England REZ, also known as the Uralla RE Hub, will be about 30km south of Armidale, and will serve as the connection point for the first stage of the Walcha Energy Project, and will allow other developers in the area to also connect, reducing system costs by providing a single connection point.
Arup is conducting the feasibility study of the Dungowan Dam pumped hydro project, and will study upper and lower reservoir options in conjunction with the Tamworth Regional Council.
It will also look at how the water security can be enhanced through the design of the PHES scheme and expand the existing catchment, to provide additional water resources in light of the drought.
“A key feature of the Walcha Energy Project is the unique community benefit model, including an ownership interest in the Winterbourne Wind Farm,”said Mark Waring, director at Walcha Energy.
“We’ve been engaging with the Walcha community for more than 14 years and continued engagement, benefit sharing and responsible development are core values for our team. Vestas is perfectly aligned with these core values and to this commitment.”