Proposed SA-NSW Interconnector Granted Major Project Status

SA-NSW interconnector - Project EnergyConnect

South Australia’s Marshall Government announced yesterday it had granted the proposed $1.5 billion “Project EnergyConnect” SA-NSW interconnector Major Project Status.

South Australia currently only has interconnection with Victoria. The Marshall Government says the addition of SA-NSW interconnector will bring cheaper power, improved reliability and boost electricity export opportunities for the state’s renewable energy sector.

As to how much the average household will save on their electricity bills each year; the number is pegged at around $66 a year in SA and $30 in New South Wales. For South Australian businesses, an example provided of a service station consuming 509,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually indicated net annual savings of an estimated $6,710.

“Significantly reduced electricity bills for small businesses will be good for jobs, investment and the local economy,” said South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

The 330 kilovolt (kV) above-ground transmission line would run from Robertstown in South Australia’s mid-north to Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, via Buronga – and there will be an added connection to Red Cliffs in north west Victoria. Overall, the line would run a distance of 900 kilometres.

The route passes though renewable energy zones in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria; meaning future renewable projects in these zones should have a comparatively easy time of connecting to the grid.

At the SA end of the proposed interconnector, there has already been significant large-scale solar energy project activity near Robertstown in the form of Solar River, Robertstown Solar and a couple of SA Water PV projects. While these projects aren’t reliant on the interconnector proceeding, it’s considered by the developers of Solar River and Robertstown Solar to be a bonus.

The granting of Major Project Status means the environmental and planning approval process for Project EnergyConnect – which will be delivered through a TransGrid/ElectraNet partnership – will be streamlined. But this doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing.

Interconnector Route Ruffles Feathers

A small section of the current proposed route of the interconnector has raised some concerns. Birdlife Australia has flagged it will run through breeding territory of the black-eared miner, a critically endangered bird, and other threatened species. The black-eared miner, pictured below, looks similar to the very common and much more boisterous noisy miner.

Black-eared miner

“South Australia’s Calperum Station is part of only five natural areas listed in our national #naturelaws to protect a threatened species, the Endangered Black-eared Miner,” said the group on Facebook. “Alarmingly, a high voltage powerline route that will cut straight through this critical habitat has been proposed, and the proposal is currently open for public comment by the Australian Government.”

Apparently, more than 1,400 emails have been sent expressing concern. According to an Adelaide Advertiser report (paywall), up to around 12 hectares of the area of concern will need to be cleared – or 0.003 per cent of the critical habitat area – but the bird hasn’t been sighted in the general area of the proposed alignment for years. Still, the fact remains the interconnector line would run through a defined critical habitat area and the situation regarding the black-eared miner will be scrutinised during environmental reviews of the project.

Currently, Project EnergyConnect is undergoing a Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission, the results of which should be known in second half of this year.

You can learn more about Project EnergyConnect here.

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. OldCynic says

    A few months ago the Victoria-NSW interconnector upgrade was the topic of the day . Today it is the SA-NSW interconnector. The trouble is that NSW relies on coal for about 80% of its generation. The business model for coal stations has been destroyed by subsidy of intermittent energy and preferential allocation to wind/solar during the day by AEMO.

    From where will the power come to be shuffled along these interconnectors?
    Upgrading the interconnectors may provide short-term benefits (at huge expense) but it will only delay the inevitable supply interruptions.

    The money would be better spent, I believe, on new NON-INTERMITTENT generation, preferably nuclear so we get a bonus of reduced CO2 emissions as well.

    • Geoff Miell says

      You say:
      “The money would be better spent, I believe, on new NON-INTERMITTENT generation, preferably nuclear so we get a bonus of reduced CO2 emissions as well.”

      So you want nuclear-fission energy, do you, OldCynic? An energy technology that:
      1. For Australia is likely to take far too long to build, probably 15 to 20 years away (while 2 GW Liddell is retired <4 years away, 1.48 GW Yallourn W perhaps <7 years, 1.68 GW Gladstone perhaps <8 years, 1.32 GW Vales Point B perhaps <10 years, 2.88 GW Eraring <14 years, 2.64 GW Bayswater <17 years, etc);
      2. Is much more expensive than firmed renewables (multiples of);
      3. Has a fuel source that is finite;
      4. Has a toxic waste problem that will far outlast any energy benefits gained.

      See my Submission (#9) and Supplementary Submission (#9.2) to the Australian Senate Fair Dinkum Power inquiry:
      Also see:

      It seems to me you want Australian prosperity to diminish (or perhaps kill off entirely)? IMO, it's a recipe for blackouts, more expensive energy, and a far less competitive environment for Australian businesses and jobs in the 2020s and beyond. Is that what you want, OldCynic?

      You ask:
      "From where will the power come to be shuffled along these interconnectors?"

      Excellent question. I included this statement in my Supplementary Submission (#9.2):
      "Although more strategically placed interconnectors are critical for a robust Australian national electricity network, so is more ‘dispatchable’ generating capacity to replace Australia’s ageing and increasingly less reliable coal-fired generators.

      The consequences of poor energy planning continue to play out with an increasing risk of energy disruptions/shortages and higher prices."

      Perhaps you should be asking governments (local, state and federal) what their plans are for affordable, reliable, long-term sustainable, zero GHG emissions energy systems, to mitigate the looming twin challenges of energy security (particularly transport energy) and dangerous climate change?

      Nothing happens without energy. Unaffordable energy means life becomes unaffordable!

      • John Mitchell says

        Geoff, what’s your opinion of the new giant wind generators like the Haliade X that have higher capacity factor than coal fired power stations. They claim to make the whole “intermittent” argument irrelevant.

        • Geoff Miell says

          John Mitchell,
          You ask:
          “Geoff, what’s your opinion of the new giant wind generators like the Haliade X that have higher capacity factor than coal fired power stations.”

          A quick websearch revealed this:
          “The math on wind turbines is pretty simple: Bigger is better. Specifically, there are two ways to produce more power from the wind in a given area.

          The first is with bigger rotors and blades to cover a wider area. That increases the capacity of the turbine, i.e., its total potential production.

          The second is to get the blades up higher into the atmosphere, where the wind blows more steadily. That increases the turbine’s “capacity factor,” i.e., the amount of power it actually produces relative to its total potential (or more colloquially: how often it runs).”

          The article goes on to discuss the engineering and logistical challenges deploying and operating these giants.

          Capacity factors for wind are still site specific. So, it makes sense to populate sites with the best wind resources, subject to other engineering/logistical, financial and heritage/social constraints.

          You say:
          “They claim to make the whole “intermittent” argument irrelevant.”

          Who are “they”? Perhaps you could provide links please.

          The referred Vox article also says:
          “A capacity factor of 60+ percent isn’t quite “baseload,” but it sure looks a lot less variable. So turbines like the Haliade-X would be more valuable even if the price of wind electricity stayed the same.”

          Thanks, John – I’ve learnt something new – the Scotland Hywind floating offshore wind turbines reportedly recently achieved a capacity factor of 65% – GE expects Hallide X to achieve 63%.

          It seems from the article that the Hallide X is intended to be deployed offshore in shallow waters. I’m not sure whether there are many (if any) suitable shallow water sites around the coast of Australia, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Perhaps floating platforms are possible?

          I expect ‘dispatchable’ power generation (and interconnectors) would still be required to fill the energy supply gaps, but perhaps less may be required – that’s a question for the NEM experts to ponder.

          IMO, Professor Blakers presents a compelling case for off-river pumped-hydro and interconnectors to balance wind and solar-PV for Australia. See YouTube video titled “2017 CURF Annual Forum – Andrew Blakers keynote”, or “UNSW SPREE 201808-29 Andrew Blakers – 100% renewable electricity”.

          Also, IMO, it’s a pity that SolarReserve failed to get the Aurora solar-thermal 150 MW with 8-hour energy storage project happening, reportedly offering power capped at AU$78/MWh. Some suggest investors perhaps may have perceived too much competition from the proposed SA-NSW interconnector – IMO, it’s a missed opportunity to bring this ‘dispatchable’ technology at large-scale to Australia to evaluate here.

          IMO, the Hallide X is not a ‘magic bullet’, but it’s an interesting and potentially useful development as part of the total energy supply mix, provided testing and certification proceeds satisfactorily. I wonder what it’s expected operational life is, and how readily recyclable are its components (particularly the apparently composite 351-foot-long blades).

    • Daniel Debreceny says

      SA is tiny vs the rest of the NEM.

      The interconnector lets SA share generation resource with NSW, and continue to become the generator for the nation, as it uses the rest of the NEM as a battery or energy sink, as needed, and continue on their renewables installation path.

      In the short term, SA can lean on coal generation for shortages, while feeding renewables into NSW (Win-Win for SA), lose-lose for NSW.

      In the long term, it provides Solar/Wind diversity for SA/NSW/VIC/QLD (Win-Win renewables & lose-lose for coal).

      It provides an opportunity for SA to effectively reduce, or shutdown, their expensive oil burners.

      Either way, it’s a positive for everyone.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Daniel Debreceny,
        You say:
        “In the short term, SA can lean on coal generation for shortages…”

        Recent indicators would suggest otherwise:

        • AGL has consistently stated that their NSW 2000 MW capacity black coal-fired Liddell Power Station will be retired in 2022 (<3½ years away). AGL has announced a $1.4 billion three-stage plan to replace generating capacity loss when Liddell is closed but is yet to commit to ALL stages of its replacement, which includes new solar, wind, batteries and gas-fired generation.

        • AGL last month announced that the 550 MW second generator unit of its Victorian 2200 MW capacity brown coal-fired Loy Yang A Power Station broke down on May 18 and could be out of action for another seven months because of difficulties replacing the stator and rotor components, and because the damage may be wider than thought. “AGL now expects it may take until December 2019 to return the Unit to service and ensure its ongoing reliability”, AGL said in its statement. If it can happen to Unit 2, how likely are Units 1, 3 and 4 to suffer the same problems in future? Since The Australia Institute’s Gas & Coal Watch began in mid-December 2017, Loy Yang A has experienced 29 breakdowns.

        • State-owned Queensland 1680 MW capacity black coal-fired Gladstone Power Station has experienced 18 breakdowns (since mid-December 2017).

        • EnergyAustralia’s Victorian 1480 MW capacity brown coal-fired Yallourn W Power Station has experienced 26 breakdowns (since mid-December 2017).

        • EnergyAustralia’s NSW 1400 MW capacity black coal-fired Mount Piper Power Station’s output is reportedly down by 42% compared with the same period in 2018, due to coal supply issues with principle supplier Springvale Colliery over recent months.

        Ageing coal-fired power stations will become increasingly unreliable. IMO, it would be imprudent for South Australia to “lean on coal generation for shortages” – the supply may fall short at critical times due to breakdowns. That may change if the NSW, Victorian and Queensland Governments produce effective energy plans to manage the retirement of their ageing fossil fuelled generators, replaced with adequate affordable, ‘dispatchable’ renewable generation and energy storage.

        While it’s good that the proposed SA-NSW Interconnector will enable SA to sell excess electricity to NSW, it seems to me that NSW will likely be struggling to sell excess electricity to SA.

        Mt Piper’s current coal supply appears inadequate (in the short-term and longer-term):

        • Normal Mt Piper consumption is reportedly: 3.7 Mt/y; (per “Western Rail Coal Unloader Preliminary Environmental Assessment”, by SKM, dated September 2006, 2.4 Project Need);

        • Springvale ROM Coal Mined 2018: 3.76 Mt (per PowerPoint Springvale presentations slides attached to minutes of Springvale CCC Meeting on 9 Apr 2019 – see Centennial Coal Springvale webpage – then expand "Community");

        • Springvale ROM Coal Mined YTD @ 29 March 2019: 913,024 tonnes (extrapolates to average 3.787 Mt/y) – How much of this ROM coal was saleable?

        • Mt Piper Feed: 1,031,114 tonnes for reporting period Nov 2018 to Mar 2019 (period 1 Nov 2018 to 31 Mar 2019 represents 151 days, with production extrapolating to average 2.492 Mt/y, per PowerPoint Springvale Coal Services Operations presentation slides attached to minutes of Springvale CCC Meeting on 9 Apr 2019);

        • Springvale Colliery’s coal reserves may be exhausted as soon as 2024 (<5½ years away), and its development consent will expire at the end of 2028.

        If Mt Piper needs 3.7 Mt/y for normal operations but Springvale is apparently currently only supplying circa 2.5 Mt/y, then it’s no wonder onsite coal stockpiles at Mt Piper P/S will continue to decline unless alternative supplies increase (or Springvale’s supply substantially improves). The question remains: In the next year or two, will Springvale’s coal supply reduce further, stay much the same, or increase to maximum allowable output?

        IMO, based on the publicly available data, the current proposal (approval pending) to truck up to 0.2 Mt/y via roads from Clarence Colliery to supplement Mt Piper P/S seems woefully inadequate.

        A rail coal unloader proposal to supply Mt Piper P/S (approved in 2009 with modification approved in Jan 2019) needs to be built promptly to ensure adequate alternative coal supplies can be facilitated (in the medium-term) to ensure the lights stay on in the 2020s.

        But ultimately, Australia needs to exit coal (both generation and export) to mitigate dangerous climate change. Where is the plan to do this?

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