More NSW Large-Scale Solar, Energy Minister Takes On Taylor

Large-scale solar energy in New South Wales

Image: skeeze

NSW Department Of Planning & Environment appears to be pulling out all the stops, squeezing in some more large-scale solar approvals before the holiday week. Meanwhile, NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin has taken on the Federal Government regarding its climate and energy policy approach.

First, to the latest solar project given the State Government nod. Announced yesterday, approval has been granted for a $119 million solar farm at Mulwala, near Albury.

The 80MW (AC) project will be developed by Esco Pacific. The company says ~300,000 solar panels will generate electricity equivalent to that used by 45,000 homes. The facility will connect to the local electricity network via  Essential Energy’s Mulwala 132 kV substation.

It’s expected construction will take eight months, from initial site works through to commissioning. An interesting aspect of the project is its noted service life – 40 years. Most large scale solar farm projects indicate 25-30 years in applications, although in many cases after that time facilities may be upgraded to enable continued operation.

Esco Pacific says there will be up to 130 staff and contractors employed during the construction phase and four staff on a permanent basis.

The Department states the project only met with two objections – one regarding land use compatibility and another in relations to aesthetics and land use. The site on which the solar farm will be constructed is currently used for cropping and grazing.

Green Light For Gregadoo

The decision published yesterday closely followed another made late last week granting approval for a 47MW solar farm in Gregadoo, near Wagga Wagga.

Greenswitch Australia’s project will support more than 150 jobs during construction, which is expected to take up to 9 months. No objections were formally registered regarding the facility, although DoPE notes “a number” of surrounding landowners raised concerns about visual impacts and land use compatibility.

Approximately 122,000 solar panels mounted on single axis tracking systems will be installed across 96 hectares of the 150-hectare development site.

572MW Of Large-Scale Solar Approved In A Week

The go-ahead for Mulwala marked the fourth large scale approval by DoPE in just over a week, collectively representing 572MW of capacity (AC). The other two projects to get a guernsey were Darlington Point Solar Farm (275MW AC) and Suntop Solar Farm (170MW AC).

According to Department Of Planning & Environment Resource and Energy Assessments Director Clay Preshaw, 51 large scale solar energy projects have been approved across the state to date by the NSW Government and independent regional planning panels.

Harwin Harangues Feds On Energy And Climate

New South Wales’ Berejiklian Liberal government appears to be going to great lengths to differentiate itself from its Federal counterpart – and it knows renewables are a vote-winner. The party is panicking as it faces an election next March, with some NSW Liberal MP’s fearing the Liberal brand has become toxic.

Earlier this month, NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin was busy promoting the state’s renewable energy progress and yesterday he cranked up the volume on energy issues to 11, creating a kerfuffle after he stated:

“The federal government is out of touch on energy and climate policy, which is preventing new investment and prices from falling. It’s time for them to change course.”

In the lead-up to yesterday’s COAG Energy Council meeting, Minister Harwin said he would be pushing for rules compelling power companies to reduce their carbon emissions.

While this time of the year is noted as the season of goodwill and peace to all, it doesn’t appear there was a lot of that going around at the meeting.

“I was very disappointed by the actions of the Federal Government at COAG Energy Council in Adelaide today,” stated Minister Harwin. “The refusal, on procedural grounds to let the vital matter of restoring an emissions obligation into national energy policy be discussed is extraordinary.”

The Minister says NSW will continue to pursue the matter with the COAG Energy Council.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. I am wondering, with these “large scale”, utility sized “farms” of solar generation of electricity; if they feed into the electricity grids, what they get paid per unit (kWh) of electricity they supply to the grids.

    I realize that each state/territory has different numbers of electricity companies, including different numbers of electricity retail billing companies (in the corrupt West, we have a state controlled monopoly, like all equivalently good government systems, like Russia, China, North Korea, etc), and, so, considerable variety of pricings, exist, for both electricity supplied retail to consumers, and, electricity fed into the grids, by both domestic (as in household) rooftop photovoltaic systems, and, large to utility sized photovoltaic systems.

    Here, in the bodgy state of WA, when the carbon tax stopped being allowed to be charged on retail electricity supplied to households, the state parliament retaliated by apparently charging the carbon tax on the Feed In Tariff, for electricity supplied to the grid by domestic rooftop photovoltaic systems, thereby reducing the Feed In Tariff.

    To me, it seems logical, equitable, and, practical, therefore, that all supplies of electricity to the grid, should be paid at the same proportionate rate; for example, 40% of the price charged to retail consumers, so, for example, as prices charged for electricity, vary – at is

    “Western Australia and the Northern Territory, which both sit outside the National Electricity Market, will face bill hikes.

    The AEMC predicts increasing gas fuel prices will drive the average bill in WA up by $156 a year, while NT customers can expect a $47 increase largely driven by increased costs for the Darwin–Katherine power system.

    ACT power prices are tipped to increase by 5 per cent over the next two years because of rising environmental and regulated network costs

    So, if electricity retail prices to consumers, are to increase, so to should the prices paid to suppliers – in the case of consumers, by way of the Feed In Tariff, by maintaining the same proportional rate for the Feed In Tariff – as I have suggested, 40% of the retail price charged to consumers.

    The would be far more logical, equitable, and, practical, than the increasing fraud to which we are subjected, by the legislatures.

  2. Geoff Miell says

    NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin MLC said:

    “The federal government is out of touch on energy and climate policy, which is preventing new investment and prices from falling. It’s time for them to change course.”

    Released today by the CSIRO is the inaugural GenCost report, prepared collaboratively with a range of industry stakeholders, updates estimates of the cost to generate electricity from new power plants in Australia; GenCost 2018 found solar and wind technologies to be lowest cost.

    If Federal Minister Angus Taylor continues to promote new coal and gas generation, then I think he will be known as the Minister for more expensive energy.

  3. I’ll believe future price reductions in the retail consumer cost of electricity when I see them. While the ‘potential’ for that to occur may well be there, our Federal political leaders have a long history of completely stuffing up the nation’s renewable energy policy.

    Perhaps its an over-simplification, but most of the past and present progress in switching to renewable energy sources seems mostly due to decisions taken at a State level, and full credit to the leaders of the states concerned for doing so.

    Given the current state of chaos in Federal politics at the present time, it seems unrealistic to me to expect that anything sensible in the area of a national renewable energy policy is going to miraculously appear in the near future, and then, in turn, get implemented within the life-time of most readers of this blog.

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