A NEW $200 million wind farm project will help to make the New England a hub for new renewable energy development, the project's proponent says.
The 130 megawatt Rangoon wind farm, which would power about 58,000 homes, and create more than 150 construction jobs, is just the latest major renewable development in the New England.
New Zealand Government-owned developer Meridian Energy Australia today announced plans to build the new $200 million project about 40km south of Glen Innes.
Angus Holcombe is the head of asset development for Meridian Energy Australia and said the sector will soon breed its own secondary industry.
"With a number of projects becoming operational in the region, you'll start to see some kind of centre of excellence for maintenance and support hubs for significant numbers of workers that will have to then base themselves in that region to support all the projects, both wind and solar and pumped hydro," he said.
"You'll start to see a number of operators either basing themselves or having satellite offices in these regions as you start to get a significant number of projects becoming operational in that region."
He said the region has three crucial advantages: good wind, community support and government backing, with the New England declared a renewable energy "zone" by state and federal governments.
Crucially, the New England has easy access to the energy grid, which runs straight through the footprint for the prospective wind farm.
Mr Holcombe said the project was at "inception stage" of development, with design not yet completed and an environmental impact assessment not expected until March next year.
In the meantime the company said they were committed to a "genuine and early community and stakeholder engagement process" over the wind farm, though COVID-19 restrictions limit in-person consultation.
Rangoon Wind Farm would create about 10 long-term jobs during operations. It would be built over 6000 hectares, near Glencoe and Ben Lomond, about 60km north of Armidale.
He said the company would be "open to" some model for the community to invest in the development in order to receive cheaper power.
Lack of grid capacity is the primary limiting factor for new renewable energy investment.
Meridian is 51 per cent owned by the New Zealand government. It's subsidiary Powershop, which advertises itself as "Australia's greenest power company", provides 165,000 customers with 100 per cent renewable energy.
The project is anticipated to cost between $160 million and $200 million.