NSW's largest solar farm officially opened
Stage 1 of ACEN Australia’s New England Solar project has been opened by the Hon Chris Bowen MP, Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, marking a milestone in the project’s six-year journey to generate clean renewable energy into the National Electricity Market (NEM).
Approved by the NSW Government in 2020, the 720 MW (AC) project is being developed in two stages. The first 400 MW (AC) stage has been in construction since March 2021, requiring the installation of close to a million solar panels. It is one of Australia’s largest projects to be participating in the NEM.
The Australian Energy Market Organisation (AEMO) granted New England Solar formal registration to send power into the NEM in December 2022. Stage 1 of the project is expected to be generating at full name plate capacity of 400 MW (AC) in the coming months.
Up to 400 workers were onsite during peak construction activity, upgrading and maintaining roads, installing and building supporting infrastructure, and constructing and connecting tracking systems and installing solar PV modules. About 80% of this peak workforce has been filled by personnel from the New England region.
ACEN Australia CEO Anton Rohner said this is an important milestone for the energy transformation underway across NSW and Australia.
“We decided to build New England Solar on a fully merchant basis to ensure it is online in time to help replace closing coal-fired power stations in NSW. We wanted to get things built, to decarbonise Australia,” Rohner said.
The project is being built with the support of the host landholders, First Nations people and the Uralla community.
“They are at the heart of what we do, and I want to personally thank them for putting their trust in us. Through their support we are together pushing the boundaries of traditional industry thinking and pioneering modern projects for modern energy needs,” Rohner said.
Together with ACEN’s contracting partner, GLC, the project has overcome challenges arising from the pandemic and an extended La Niña weather system.
ACEN Australia is investing more than $5m in community funding into Uralla over the next 25+ years as part of New England Solar.
“We understand the importance of sharing in the benefits that our projects can provide. I’m particularly proud of the work already invested through the Uralla Grants Program, under the stewardship of the project’s Community Reference Group, an independent body consisting of Uralla-based members that brings together a mix of skills and deep understanding of the local region, its history and the people who live here,” Rohner said.
Uralla Grants supports the community to promote resilience, prosperity, sustainability and recreation. At completion of Stage 1 construction, $200,000 in grants will have already been delivered. New England Solar marks the start of ACEN Australia’s journey to provide opportunities for Aboriginal people to participate in renewable energy projects.
“Just as the Anaiwan and Gumbaynggirr people have been doing for thousands of years, today we seek to harness the sun’s resources using new technologies. Our Registered Aboriginal Parties have been a part of New England Solar since the beginning, and I’m so pleased they could join us today for this exciting milestone and welcome us to Country,” Rohner said.
ACEN Australia has more than 1 GW capacity in construction and more than 8 GW capacity in the development pipeline.
According to ACEN CEO Eric Francia, this represents a significant portion of ACEN’s international portfolio, establishing Australia as a stronghold for ACEN’s renewables expansion into the region, working towards the company’s goal of 20 GW of renewables capacity by 2030.
New England Solar is located near Uralla in the NSW Government’s New England Renewable Energy Zone.
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