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Spanish renewables developer plans 300MW solar farm in south-west NSW

https://www.pv-magazine-australia.com/2022/03/11/spanish-renewables-developer-plans-300mw-solar-farm-in-south-west-nsw/

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Spanish renewable energy developer X-Elio plans to build a multi-million-dollar solar farm that is expected to generate 610GWh of green energy annually when complete, and a battery energy storage system (BESS) near Wagga Wagga in the Riverina region of New South Wales (NSW).

Belinda Fan, X-Elio’s country manager in Australia said the 300MW Maxwell Solar Farm is being developed on a 1013-hectare site about 23 kilometres south of Wagga Wagga. The company also plans to include a storage component to the project but is yet to reveal sizing details.

“We will develop the design of both the solar farm and storage over the next phase of development in conjunction with the utility as well as other project stakeholders,” Fan said in an emailed statement, adding X-Elio has “significant ambition to grow our investments in Australia”.

The Maxwell Solar Farm, which will dwarf the 200MW Blue Grass Solar Farm being developed by X-Elio near Chinchilla in Queensland’s Western Downs region, will connect to the national grid via Transgrid’s existing 330kV transmission lines.

X-Elio said in the first year of operation the solar farm would produce about 610GWh of renewable energy, enough to power more than 115,000 Australian homes and offset approximately 400,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum.

The company said the project site has been secured and the grid connection feasibility study is underway. X-Elio has also initiated the development approval process with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment but Fan stressed the project is only in its early stages.

“The project is currently at an early assessment stage,” she said. “We are commencing grid studies and initiating planning processes, including hosting community consultations, all of which will inform the project’s design.

“We are working towards securing required permits within the next 12-18 months and commencing construction towards late 2023.”

Fan said the project site is ideally located in an area of “abundant solar resource with convenient and prime access to the transmission network”.

“Additionally, the Maxwell Solar Farm project is located within the proposed Wagga Renewable Energy Zone (REZ),” she said.

The project site is located about 150 kilometres to the east of the proposed South-West REZ, one of five designated clean energy areas detailed in the NSW government’s electricity roadmap.

A recent registration of interest (ROI) process for the South-West REZ in the western Riverina attracted more than 34GW of large-scale wind, solar PV and energy storage proposals, more than 10 times the likely capacity of the zone.

The project site is also within close proximity to Project EnergyConnect, a new $2.3 billion electricity interconnector being built by Transgrid and ElectraNet between Wagga Wagga and Robertstown in South Australia.

Project EnergyConnect will also deliver an upgrade for the transmission line between Wagga Wagga and Dinawan, which links to the eastern edge of the REZ, and is expected to unlock up to 1.2 GW of additional transmission capacity.

The Maxwell Solar Farm is the latest project in Australia for X-Elio which entered the market in 2017.

The 200MW Blue Grass Solar Farm is nearing full commercial operations.

Image: CEFC

The company, co-owned by US investment firms Brookfield and KKR, expected to achieve full commercial operations of the Blue Grass Solar Farm early this year after reaching financial close for the $215 million project.

The 120MW Forest Glen and 80MW Wunghnu solar farms in NSW and Victoria respectively are also part of the more than 500MW of projects X-Elio has in development in Australia.

The Maxwell Solar Farm adds to a plethora of solar projects planned for the Wagga Wagga region.

Fellow Spanish renewables developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) has secured financing for its 90MW Sebastopol Solar Farm being developed near Temora to the north of Wagga Wagga while the Australian arm of German-headquartered renewable energy developer BayWa r.e is developing the 12MW Sandy Creek Solar Farm to the south of the town.

Origin Energy has plans to build a 200MW solar farm and associated battery storage at nearby Uranquinty while Greek energy company Mytilineos and its subsidiary Metka EGN has commenced construction on a 23MW extension to the 40MW Wagga Solar Farm.

Fan said the proposed solar farm at Maxwell would “deliver huge economic and social benefits to the local community”, including approximately 300-350 full time construction jobs and 8-12 full time operational roles.

Fan said X-Elio will now commence a year-long program of consultation with the local community so their concerns and feedback can be considered and factored into planning and assessments.

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