NSW’s Broken Hill solar farm to be completed by end of 2015

The Broken Hill solar plant in New South Wales will be completed as scheduled by the end of the year, according to a press release from the plant’s developer, utility company AGL.

Located on a 140-hectare site near the border with South Australia, the project is currently one of the largest under development in Australia, at 53 megawatts (MW), and is sister project to the even larger Nyngan Solar Farm (102MW).

The projects received significant funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) – at around $166m – and the NSW government (around $65m) after the federal government’s Solar Flagships program was absorbed into ARENA.

The Broken Hill plant will employ 150 people during the peak stages of construction and is expected to create an additional 80 to 90 specialised jobs. It will also help the region to diversify its economy and move away from the its heavy reliance on mining and extractive industries.

According to project manager Adam Mackett, the plant is also breaking ground with regard to how alternative energy projects are developed, constructed and operate. AGL has actively sought community engagement on the Broken Hill plant, holding a number of informal ‘Community Consultative Committees’ when a more conventional, one-time community forum failed to draw a crowd.

The Consultative Committee events allow the general public to have a voice in the development process, inviting them to look at the long term impacts the plant will have on the local environment and stakeholders. Through this approach, AGL aims to forge strong relations with the community, hiring locally trained workers and generating revenue for the region (so that money is spent locally).

The plant is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2015. This will have a positive impact on electricity prices by decreasing costs in an area, where they have remained stubbornly high. In the next five years, this will contribute to a $1.4 billion in savings for electricity consumers.

Solar energy system brokerage and tender management firm Solar Choice, known widely for their work in the residential anc commercial solar space, is one of several of companies looking to develop utility-scale solar projects in Australia. Solar Choice’s proposed 350MW Gannawarra Solar Farm, which received planning approval last year from the local shire council, will be the largest of its kind in Australia once it is completed.

Top image: Mockup of Broken Hill Solar Farm, via AGL

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