The Department of Planning has approved a $117 million solar energy project at Vales Point power station with the capacity to power 20,000 homes.
The project, which attracted broad community and political support when it was placed on public exhibition earlier this year will be one of the first large scale solar power facilities in Australia to co-exist with a coal-fired power station.
Work will begin early next year on the he 55 megawatt renewable energy facility that will be built on a 80 hectare area of rehabilitated ash dam that forms part of the broader power station site.
The project will support 100 construction jobs over the 18-month construction period.
“This innovative project is one of the first in Australia where large-scale renewable and coal-fired energy facilities sit side by side,” Resource assessments director Clay Preshaw said.
“The Vales Point solar farm is close to the existing grid connection as well as being within an existing land-use zoned for power generation.”
Delta Electricity Company Secretary Steve Gurney described the solar farm as an exciting development in terms of its scale and the potential for expansion down the track.
The project, which will also provide a significant contribution to government renewable energy targets, brings the Delta’s renewable energy development portfolio to approximately 300 megawatt hours.
The company is also collaborating with Altura Group in the development of an inland pumped storage hydro project located near Lincoln Gap in South Australia.
“Delta recognises that both dispatchable power and low emission technologies have a role to play in supporting an affordable, reliable and sustainable national electricity grid” Mr Gurney said.
He added the Vales Point site was an example of how both technologies could be co-located and integrated into the grid.
Vales Point power station, which is now expected to continue to operate past its technical closure date of 2029, was valued at just $1 million when the state government sold it to energy consultant Trevor St Baker and coal baron Brian Flannery in 2015.
The solar farm, which is expected to have a lifespan of at least 25 years, has been designed to help to bridge any shortfall brought about by the closure of coal-fired power stations.
Fourteen submissions were received while the project was on public exhibition.
Lake Macquarie City Council’s submission was supportive of the project, however it raised concerns about its impact on coastal saltmarsh.
“With the exception of the coastal saltmarsh issue, it appears that the ‘baseline’ for impact assessment is reasonable, predictions of impact are robust with suitable sensitivity testing, the assessment considers how to avoid and minimise impacts, and the proposal includes all reasonably feasible mitigation options,” the submission said.
Mr Preshaw said there was billions of dollars of private investment in renewable energy projects right across NSW.
“Solar energy is a key part of NSW’s energy mix and will become even more important into the future,” Mr Preshaw said.
The three largest solar farms in NSW – at Broken Hill, Nyngan and Moree – are all located in the western parts of the state, where sunlight is more intense.
However, unlike existing large-scale solar project the Vales Point solar farm is located a relatively short distance from existing transmission lines.