Overview

The Gilgandra Solar Farm is a project consisting of up to 140 hectares of ground mounted solar panels approximately 25km south of Gilgandra (NSW), along Newell Highway.

The aim of this project is to develop an environmentally and economically sound solar farm.

Gilgandra Solar Farm will generate approximately 100,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean, renewable electricity into the national power grid each year, thereby making a major contribution to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction. This reduction will be equivalent to taking either 24,000 cars off the road or planting 140,000 trees, producing enough electricity to power approximately 14,000 homes with renewable energy.

Neoen will leverage off its local experience developing four comparable projects in NSW including two of them in the Orana region, all having received federal support in the form of a grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), as announced in September 2016.

The combination of the Federal Renewable Energy Target (RET), ARENA’s large-scale solar competitive funding round, the decreasing cost of technology and Australia’s commitments made under the Paris Agreement now provide highly favourable conditions for solar projects in Australia. Consequently, Neoen will expedite the development of Gilgandra Solar Farm.

Construction is expected to start late 2017 or early 2018 providing employment opportunities for the region.

Site selection

Gilgandra was identified by Neoen as a high-potential location for a solar farm in 2013.

An initial feasibility assessment has been undertaken to determine the suitability of the area to accommodate a solar farm. This feasibility assessment has been based on the following criteria:

  • superior solar resources;
  • proximity to electricity network and connection capacity available at the anticipated connection point;
  • adequate local electricity load with potential for growth (ex: through new national logistic hub);
  • landholders supportive of developing a solar farm on their property;
  • low environmental impact;
  • low expected visual impact;
  • suitable land in terms of:
    • topography;
    • land area;
    • land zoning;
    • geology;
    • hydrology including flooding risk; and
    • access to the site.

Planning

Given the capital cost of the project, its development application will be assessed by the NSW Department of Planning & Environment. Therefore a Scoping Study for the GilgandraSolar Farm has been lodged with the NSW Department of Planning & Environment in May 2014.

Following lodgement, the NSW Department of Planning & Environment issued the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) in December 2014.

These requirements are now being used as a basis for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) undertaken by Neoen with GHD, an energy and environmental consulting firm.

Studies undertaken will include:

  • biodiversity;
  • heritage (including Aboriginal heritage);
  • visual amenity;
  • noise assessment;
  • hydrology and flooding;
  • soils;
  • traffic and transport;
  • bushfire risk.

Lodgement of the provisional EIS is planned for late December 2016, with approval expected in May 2017.

Site Location and Preliminary Layout

The Gilgandra Solar Farm site comprises 190 hectares of private freehold land and willconsist of up to ~ 140 hectares of ground mounted solar panels. Below is a preliminary layout based on the technical assessment and consultation undertaken to date:

This preliminary layout provides for up to 49 megawatts peak (MWp) of solar panels; however, it may be amended to reflect the results of on-going technical assessments and discussions with the local community and regulators.

Electrical Connection

The electricity generated from the solar farm will be transmitted via underground cabling or overhead transmission to the national electricity grid via a 66kV substation which is part of the development approval. The power generated from the Gilgandra Solar Farm will flow into the national interconnected network.