The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) of New South Wales has granted conditional approval for Neoen’s proposed 350 MW Culcairn Solar Farm and 200 MWh battery energy storage system in the Australian state's Riverina region.
The approval brings the total value of the state's approved capital investments to AUD 2.3 billion ($1.8 billion) over the past 12 months. It follows recent IPC approvals for RES Australia’s 100 MW Springdale Solar Farm Project, another 150 MW by Hanwha Energy and Green Switch Australia for the Jindera Solar Farm, and GAIA Australia’s 200 MW Bonshaw Solar Farm and associated 300 MW battery storage project, among other planned installations. All of those projects were referred to the IPC due to strong community objections.
The Riverina region hosts a high number solar projects, despite consistently voiced concerns over the use of agricultural land for large-scale solar generation. For the Culcairn project, there were a number of community objections, including the heat-island effect of solar panels and the difficulty of fighting bushfires in fire-prone areas blanketed by such installations.
In all, the IPC recorded 146 objections to the AUD 636.6 million project, but it ultimately ruled in favor of development. Its decision was based on a number of arguments, including the claim that the project is consistent with national and international aims to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
The IPC noted that the Culcairn project has an electrical grid connection. It also noted that “the project would generate enough electricity to power over 131,000 homes, and is therefore consistent with the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework and Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-2030.”
The IPC commissioners, Andrew Hutton and Zada Lipman, also said that the Culcairn project is “consistent with the Department’s Riverina Murray Regional Plan 2036, which identifies the development of renewable energy as a growth opportunity for the region.”
The planned installation is expected to create 350 full-time jobs and 1,546 indirect jobs during construction, in addition to other jobs throughout its projected minimum 25-year operational phase. In addition, 60% of its development costs will likely be spent within the Riverina region, the IPC noted.
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