State Government Approval Granted to NSW’s First Solar Farm

Infigen Energy has been granted the Keneally government’s approval for NSW’s first commercial solar farm. The farm, to be located about 2km south of Nyngan, a small town in the dry about 600km west of Sydney. The farm would feed directly into a pre-existing power substation. The Nyngan farm is part of Infigen’s aims to install 150MW of solar power throughout the state, helping NSW on its path towards 20% renewable energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Expected to have a capacity of 100MW using Suntech solar panels and generate enough power for 20,000 homes, the proposed farm would be the first of its kind in NSW, and would be be eligible for funding from the federal government’s Solar Flagships program (pdf). The Solar Flagships program is budgeted to invest $1.5 billion to encourage large scale solar energy in four projects in different locations in the country. So far in NSW, nine solar farm projects have been proposed in response to the Solar Flagships program. Construction of the Nyngan solar farm is expected to cost $300 million, about one third of which would be funded by the Solar Flagships fund if it is approved. The solar farm is anticipated to boost employment for the town during construction, creating more than 50 jobs, plus a smaller number of maintenance and upkeep jobs after construction is complete.

The Nyngan solar farm project was approved under Part 3A of the NSW State Environmental Planning and Assessment (EP&A) Act. Part 3A is invoked when it is determined that a project is of ‘state significance’. Under Part 3A, state Minister for the Environment can set special criteria for approval in the project’s Environmental Assessment (EA). In the case of the Nyngan farm, these criteria included a strategic justification for the project, noise and visual impact assessments, and impacts on biodiversity and heritage values. There was also a mandatory 30-day public consultation period, during which the project was on display for the public to examine and comment on or object to. Federal government approval under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) is the next step in process.

© 2010 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Sources and Links:

News Items about the proposed Nyngan Solar Farm: ABC: “$300 million solar farm approved at Nyngan” : ABC: “NSW Government approves first commercial solar farm for the state” : The Australian: “Infigen wins NSW approval for Nyngan solar farm : The Dailly Telegraph: “Green Light to Solar”

NSW Department of Planning website: Nyngan Solar Farm Project Application (The image at the top of this article is taken from this report)

Legislation: NSW EP&A Act : Federal EPBC Act

Federal Solar Flagships Program Website

Previous related solar choice blog: Australia’s Largest Rooftop Solar Installations : Changes to Enhanced Renewable Energy Target for 2011

James Martin II