Go-Ahead Given For Vales Point Solar Farm

Vales Point solar project

Vales Point Power Station | Image: Public Domain

The New South Wales Department of Planning & Environment has approved an application for a large-scale solar farm at the site of the coal-fired clunker, Vales Point Power Station.

Vales Point Power station is a 1320 MW coal fired generator operated by Sunset Power International trading as Delta Electricity. It is located on the NSW Central Coast at the southern end of Lake Macquarie, approximately 35 km south of Newcastle.

In August last year, Delta Electricity announced it was considering a 45MW solar farm to be built on an old ash dam at the site. The ash dam was associated with Vales Point ‘A’ that was built in the 1960’s and is now decommissioned. ‘B’ station, which is still operating, was added in the late 1970’s.

In February this year, Delta submitted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the NSW Department of Planning & Environment for a facility up to 55MW, kicking off the public exhibition period. The project was generally well-supported and the Department approved the application in late October.

Solar panel placement at Vales Point Power Station site

Lined areas indicate solar panel placement

Construction of the facility is expected to commence early next year. The project involves a capital investment of between $75-115 million and will create 100 construction jobs over 18 months, plus 5 full time permanent positions.

220,000 solar panels will be installed across the 80-hectare site and the facility is expected to generate up to 110 gigawatt-hours of clean electricity annually. The solar farm will have an operating life of at least 25 years..

Coal Power At Vales Point For Another 30 Years?

The solar farm project was seen by some as a case of out with the old and in with the new, but those looking forward to an end to coal-fired power generation in the Lake Macquarie region may be bitterly disappointed.

Vales Point Power Station was purchased by Sunset Power International from the NSW Government for just $1 million in 2015. Vales Point B was scheduled for closure in 2029, but Delta indicated in September it could be refurbished and its service life extended to 2049, at a cost of $750 million.

The company may have a willing partner in this – the Morrison Government through its proposed Underwriting New Generation Investments program.

A discussion paper released late last month regarding the initiative states:

“The program will offer a level playing field to enable the best and lowest cost generation options to be supported—this includes consideration of ‘greenfield’ or ‘brownfield’ projects as well as upgrades or life extensions of existing generators.”

It appears PM Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor are eager to push this program along, ahead of the next federal election that must occur or before 18 May 2019.

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.

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