New South Wales approves 275 MW for development

Sydney-based developer Epuron will develop 105 MW in the village of Nevertire and 29 MW in the community of Walgett. Infinergy Pacific will build 100 MW of solar capacity in the small community of Metz, while French developer Neoen — which separately signed a PPA last week with EnergyAustralia for 100 MW of solar capacity under construction in Coleambally, NSW — will install 40 MW in the town of Gilgandra. Upon completion, the four new projects will generate enough electricity for more than 100,000 homes and will create 645 construction jobs, according to an online statement.

“Our focus is on ensuring energy security and affordability for our communities, businesses and services,” said Anthony Roberts, minister for planning and housing in NSW. “Northwest NSW is fast becoming one of the solar power generation hubs of the state.”

Before it approved the projects, the state government consulted with a range of stakeholders, including local councils, community representatives and landowners. The authorities have set strict rules for construction, partly to minimize the environmental impact of the installation process.

Over the past few years, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment has approved roughly 1.3 GW of large-scale solar installations for development at 16 sites throughout the state, including five in 2016 alone. In total, the 16 projects have the potential to cater to the power needs of 423,000 homes. First Solar reached financial close on one of those projects — a 48.5 MW solar plant in the town of Manildra — earlier this year. 

In May, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in NSW drafted recommendations for voluntary solar feed-in tariffs (FITs) for 2017-18. It suggested a benchmark range of AU$0.116 to AU$0.146/kWh, from AU$0.055 to AU$0.072/kWh a year earlier.