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Australian grid operator reveals plans for 2.5 GW renewable energy hub

Spark Investment, an electricity network owner, has announced plans to develop a 2.5 GW renewable energy hub in New South Wales as it continues to move beyond owning regulated network infrastructure and into renewable generation assets.

From pv magazine Australia

Spark Renewables, an offshoot of Spark Investment, plans to develop a 2.5 GW hybrid wind, solar and battery storage project near Jerilderie, New South Wales.

The site for the proposed Dinawan Energy Hub is on the route of the planned AUD 2.28 billion ($1.7 billion) Project EnergyConnect, the high-voltage electricity transmission interconnector stretching between New South Wales and South Australia. Spark Renewables said the hub is also strategically positioned in relation to the proposed HumeLink, a 500 kV transmission upgrade to increase transfer capacity from the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme and the VNI West interconnector.

The company, which owns the 100 MW Bomen Solar Farm near Wagga Wagga, said the hub would generate enough electricity to power more than 1 million average Australian homes per year and significantly offset the impact of coal-fired power station closures in New South Wales.

Anthony Marriner, head of renewables at Spark Renewables, said that the proposed project is in the early stages of planning. Work is set to commence on preliminary studies and consultation in the coming months.

“We are only at the start of the development process and the proposed project must undergo a rigorous planning and assessment process which includes environmental studies,” he said. “We are also committed to extensive community and stakeholder consultation to identify the possible environmental, economic and social impacts, as well as opportunities and mitigation measures.”

While there are no significant commitments in place, it is anticipated that construction of stage 1 of the Dinawan Energy Hub would begin in 2024, with the first operations to commence in 2025.

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Spark Infrastructure Managing Director Rick Francis said the hub will serve as a “cornerstone project” in the South-West Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) and will accelerate the development of new renewable generation in the zone.

“It will unlock significant renewable generation capacity consisting of wind, solar and battery energy storage across (New South Wales) in the coming years, providing resource diversity to renewable generation planned in the other REZs,” he said. “This proposed major new renewable project further underpins the need for new and expanded high-voltage transmission links within (New South Wales) and to Sydney which are crucial as the energy transition continues to accelerate in our quest for a sustainable energy future for Australia.”

The Dinawan Energy Hub is part of a major shift for Spark, which owns 49% of the major network operators in Victoria and South Australia and a 15% stake in New South Wales transmission network operator Transgrid. The company is now targeting more than AUD 1 billion of investment in renewable energy generation by 2025.

The Bomen Solar Farm, which went online last year, was the first renewable energy asset in Spark’s portfolio. But the company said it has a ~2.2 GW development portfolio of wind, solar, storage and green hydrogen projects. This includes an 60 MW extension planned for the Bomen Solar Farm, as well as an unidentified 150 MW solar+storage project and a 350 MW wind farm in New South Wales, along with a massive 600 MW wind farm project in South Australia.

“We are evaluating further opportunities for Bomen Solar Farm, including storage,” Francis wrote in the company’s annual report. “Other areas we are exploring include wind, solar and storage projects.”

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Source: pv magazine