Approval Granted For 900MW Yarrabee Solar Project

Yarrabee Solar Project

Image: Reach Solar Energy

After a string of large-scale solar approvals leading into the end of the year, the NSW Government has left an announcement of the biggest to last.

Reach Solar Energy’s 900MW (AC) Yarrabee Solar Project is to be located approximately 23 kilometres southwest of Narrandera in the Riverina Region of Western NSW and will occupy a footprint of 2,600 hectares.

The clean power station will be developed in stages. The full 900MW capacity being developed is contingent on a number of conditions being met, including establishing power purchase agreement/s for the electricity generated and high voltage transmission network capacity being available.

The project will require approximately 3 million solar panels if all stages are completed, which will be mounted on 36,000 single axis tracking systems. 222 inverter stations will be distributed throughout site. A new high voltage substation is to be constructed adjacent to the existing Wagga 330kV to Darlington Point transmission line.

If fully developed, Yarrabee Solar Project is expected to generate just over 2,000 GWh of electricity a year, which is equivalent to the electricity consumption of approximately 335,000 homes.

Also in the plans is a potential 35MW/70MWh energy storage facility located adjacent to the substation. At the time the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was submitted, the likely contender for the battery storage aspect was a Tesla Powerpack based system. Powerpack is what’s used in the Tesla Big Battery (Hornsdale Power Reserve) installation in South Australia. Like Hornsdale, Yarrabee will be able to provide ancillary services to help stabilise the grid.

It’s expected Yarrabee’s first stage of 300MW will take approximately 18 months to construct. Between 150 and 200 construction workers will be on site on any given day during construction, but during peak activities this could jump to 450 workers. Post-construction, 10-15 full-time staff would be required at the site on a daily basis.

The project’s capital investment value has been pegged at $956,910,000.

Land Use Issues

Laud used by solar farms can be a touchy topic, particularly where agricultural land is involved.

The entire Yarrabee Solar Project site has been classed as “moderate agricultural capability”; i.e. not prime agricultural, and may continue to be utilised for grazing activities throughout the life of the project – between 30 and 50 years.

Between Yarrabee and other approved PV farms in the area (including the recently approved Darlington Point facility), 4,350 hectares of agricultural land will be “lost” to solar development. However, the Department Of Planning & Environment states this represents approximately 0.0005% of agricultural land in the region.

This won’t be Reach Solar Energy’s first large-scale project. The company is also involved with Bungala Solar Project, a 220MW facility situated near Port Augusta in South Australia. Stage One was connected to the grid in May 2018 and Stage 2 in early November.

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. Steve Isles says

    I think its time governments took stock of how much money is being poured into these solar projects. They produce power when we least need it and not when it is most needed. These projects as with the small scale domestic solar are pushing up prices right around the country. And worst of all those that can afford the installation of solar panel are subsidised by those that cannot afford them.

    The country sorely needs base load energy generation and I for one feel we should look seriously at nuclear power.

    You make a big deal of the storage capability planned. But please put that into perspective. It is a tiny battery that wouldn’t power a small village let alone any meaningful number of dwellings or a medium commercial energy user.

    • Alistair Daley says

      I could not agree more.
      Labor want to push our renewable capacity to 50% by 2030 and this will happen if they win the upcoming election. Now we are talking up to 20GW along with storage.
      The arithmetic is simple. It can’t be done. They claim this policy will reduce electricity bills but give no explanation as to how this will/can be achieved. As far as I can see for every KW of renewable energy you need an equivalent amount in reserve which can only come via coal, gas or nuclear power. Our energy bills will, more than likely, double if they go down this path. If coal and gas are out due to their emissions than I totally agree with you that nuclear is the answer.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Alistair Daley,
        You state:

        “The arithmetic is simple. It can’t be done.”

        And why should we take your word that: “It can’t be done”? What’s your expertise (in energy economics), if any? What compelling data and analyses do you have to support these apparently unsubstantiated statements?

        You also state:

        “As far as I can see for every KW of renewable energy you need an equivalent amount in reserve which can only come via coal, gas or nuclear power. Our energy bills will, more than likely, double if they go down this path.”

        What’s the basis for these statements? It seems to me you are regurgitating what a fossil fuel and nuclear power booster would likely say. The evidence I see indicates new renewables (with ‘firming’) are now decisively cheaper than new coal-, gas- and nuclear-based electricity generation.

        IF, as you appear to imply, coal, gas and/or nuclear power are the only reliable sources of electricity generation technologies to provide backup for renewable energy, THEN what do we do when coal, gas, uranium and thorium resources inevitably become scarce and unaffordable? Petroleum oil, fossil natural gas, coal, uranium and thorium are not long-term sustainable energy supply options because they are finite, one-time use, non-renewable, and rapidly depleting (except thorium).

        Renewables offer the only long-term sustainable, zero-carbon emissions, affordable, reliable, rapidly deployable, safe solutions for Australia’s electricity generation in the 2020s and beyond.
        See my comment:

        Energy storage is a key requisite for a high percentage share of renewables connected to the electricity grid. It’s certainly doable, as ANU Professor Andrew Blakers’ keynote address on pumped-hydro energy storage and 100% renewable electricity, presented on 30 Nov 2017, shows (duration 37:54).

        Alistair, how do you reconcile what you have stated above with what the CSIRO and the AEMO have published in their “GenCost 2018” report? Even Australia’s largest power companies, Origin and AGL, now accept that renewables are now cheaper than building new coal capacity. Are you saying that Professor Blakers is wrong and you are correct? I think your statements indicate your thinking is ill-informed – please be better informed.

      • 50% re can Be done and south australia is already moving past 50% RE. And it has meant cheaper wholesale prices relative to eastern states I. The last couple of months when SA has a history of being up to double eastern state wholesale prices.

        When more batteries and solar and wind knock out more of the gas units in SA who are the price setters prices will fall Even further.

        You don’t know what you are talking about.

    • David Johns says

      Large solar projects like this are fantastic, and will work in with snowyhydro 2.0 which is a giant battery, these solar projects create excess energy during the day which is stored via pumped hydro, then the energy is released at any time of day when required. also unlike coal plants in the hunter valley, these projects create local jobs during construction and ongoing running of the plant.

      • Leif Lemke says

        Are you kidding David Johns? We live in a dry continent and we have already severely damaged the Snowy River wit the Snowy ! Scheme. The pumped-hydro scheme require 2 large dams both with massive evaporation.
        Reducing our consumption of energy is the solution and are both economically and morally right.

        • david johns says

          Not kidding. the smaller batteries are important as they fill in the small gaps such as clouds going over or demand ramping up, then the massive new hydro project – which links 2 existing dams talbingo and tantangra with no extra evaporation can be put online within 90 seconds, and pump backwards/recharge when there is excess energy in the system.

          If you tell people to use less energy, it isn’t going to happen, but making renewable energy and creating jobs in country towns is a win for everyone, the greenies, the locals in narrandera and the people running their air conditioners. With electric cars coming, thirst for electricity is going to continue to grow, not shrink.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Steve Isles,
      You state:

      “The country sorely needs base load energy generation and I for one feel we should look seriously at nuclear power.”

      Steve, why nuclear power? Here are some reasons that suggest that nuclear power for Australia is an expensive, mistimed, and a long-term unsustainable energy choice:

      1. Nuclear power generation within Australia is currently prohibited by Federal law, specifically:
      a. Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency Act 1998; and
      b. Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth).
      A completely new legal and regulatory framework would need to be established, with the acceptance of most of the Australian electorate. Good luck with that!

      2. Only governments, and therefore taxpayers, will underwrite a nuclear power industry; and pay dearly if dire incidents occur. This also requires an acceptance by most of the Australian electorate. Good luck with that too!

      3. There’s currently minimal nuclear power generation technical and engineering expertise within Australia. An extensive recruitment programme (likely sourcing key skilled personnel primarily from overseas) would be required to establish a completely new, highly complex industry.

      4. Large-scale nuclear power generators require 10 years minimum to plan, construct and commission. This point, together with the other points above, would suggest any electricity generated by nuclear fission within Australia would probably be closer to 20 years away from when the decision was made to proceed. With many ageing Australian coal-fired power stations due to retire within this timeframe (beginning with NSW’s 2000 MW Liddell power station in 2022), deploying nuclear power would take much too long. Australia cannot afford to wait for nuclear power to become available if it needs to keep the lights on in the 2020s, and beyond. See the Australian Senate Environment and Communications References Committee Retirement of coal fired power stations Final report, dated March 2017, Table 2.1.

      5. New nuclear fission-, gas- and coal-based electricity generation technologies are now decisively more expensive than new renewables (wind and solar-PV) with ‘firming’ – the economics and deployment times required renders the nuclear energy option non-viable for Australia.

      6. There’s approximately 100 years global supply of high-grade uranium ores remaining at current rate of consumption. Additional demand from Australia (and other countries) intending to expand their nuclear industries will by necessity deplete remaining reserves sooner, exacerbating existing strains on providing adequate nuclear fuel for current demands, and likely increase nuclear fuel prices further.
      See: “Fossil and Nuclear Fuels – The Supply Outlook”, Energy Watch Group, March 2013, Figure 113:

      7. The thorium nuclear fuel cycle is not yet established, and thus to date the technology remains unproven and prospective operating costs remain speculative.

      8. Nuclear fission energy produces nuclear waste that needs to be safely contained for tens of thousands to billions of years (for high level waste). Few people in Australia want a permanent nuclear waste repository near them. Due to strong resistance by local communities to various proposals, the Federal Government is having little success to date at establishing a permanent low & intermediate level nuclear waste repository in Australia (with anticipated operations over 100 years and monitoring up to a 300-year lifespan) for dealing with waste generated from various sites including the Lucas Heights research reactor facility and nuclear medicine facilities at various hospitals around the country. Establishing a nuclear power industry in Australia would likely produce much more quantities of nuclear waste that need to be safely contained for a very long time.

      The only reason I can see to establish a nuclear power generation industry in Australia is that it provides an opportunity to source adequate quantities of key materials necessary for nuclear weapons production to perhaps mitigate a perceived strategic military threat – otherwise, it makes no economic (or energy security) sense when there are abundant, cheaper, more rapidly deployable, reliable, safer energy technology alternatives.

      Australia does not need ‘baseload’ energy generation – it needs adequate ‘dispatchable’ energy generation, provided by a rapid deployment of adequate capacities (and an appropriate mix) of hydro, pumped-hydro, batteries, concentrating solar thermal with adequate molten salt storage, etc.

  2. Leif Lemke says

    What about reducing our consumption of energy. We along with the North-Americans are the worst polluters of the atmosphere.

  3. Paul Surguy says

    This solar farm may link in with the Riverlink from SA to Wagga in NSW as well as the 2 solar farms at Balranald

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