THE New England and North West is fast becoming the renewable capital of NSW, with another two solar farms in the pipeline, representing a combined investment of almost $300 million.
Plans are already under way for new solar farms in Gunnedah and Narrabri, which are already home to other proposed solar developments.
The $90 million development at Narrabri has been put forward by renewable energy giant Canadian Solar.
Located on a 200-hectare block off Old Gunnedah Rd, the 60-megawatt solar farm would generate enough energy to power 17,000 homes.
During its nine to 12 month construction period, it’s expected to create 75 jobs, inject more than $45 million into the local economy. Once finished, there would be 10 ongoing jobs.
Project development manager Shane Melotte said Narrabri ticked all the boxes for a solar farm – lots of sunlight, available land and a robust power network.
He said the project had a life time of more than 20 years and was “fairly sizeable”.
“I’ve been in this industry for more than a decade now and I remember when we use to pop the champagne over a one-megawatt project,” he said, laughing.
Photon Energy has put forward a $201m solar farm on a 692-hectare site Gunnedah’s Orange Grove Rd.
The 155-megawatt project would only use a small part of the site, with the rest remaining for agriculture.
More than 470,000 panels would be installed over a nine to 12 month period, using local products where possible and employing up to 60 people, with up to six ongoing jobs.
Adam Blakester, who heads up local solar charity Farming the Sun, said while the projects were yet to be approved by the state government, they were another glowing endorsement for the region’s renewable capabilities.
“We’ve got solar resources in the centre and west of our region, and wind up on top,” Mr Blakester said.
He never anticipated solar to “move this quickly”, but advances in technology and reduced construction costs were seeing the industry jump ahead in leaps and bounds. Renewable investment in the region was now in the ball park of $2 billion, Mr Blakester said.
“We are talking about this biggest amount amount of invest this region has ever seen, at least in this short period of time of a few years,” he said.