New South Wales achieves ‘significant milestone’ for Central-West Orana REZ

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NSW is currently developing at least five REZ. Image: NSW government.

New South Wales, Australia, has received planning approval for the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) transmission project, which could drive up to AUS$20 billion (US$13.5 billion) in private investment into solar, wind and energy storage.

The NSW government has classified this as a “significant milestone”, with it being the first REZ in Australia to achieve this step, which will pave the way for the construction of essential transmission infrastructure to connect large-scale solar, wind, and energy storage projects to the electricity grid.

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Once fully completed, the project will deliver at least 4.5GW of transmitted electricity.

NSW submitted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the REZ in October 2023, which included measures to avoid, minimise, or mitigate potential environmental and community impacts.

Central-West Orana REZ will be built on roughly 20,000 km2 near Dunedoo, Mudgee, and Dubbo, a rural area about 330km north-west of Sydney.

According to Paul Scully, the NSW minister for Planning and Public Spaces, securing planning approval for the Central-West Orana REZ transmission project is a “huge step forward in progressing 12GW of generation under the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap”.

The project’s financial close is scheduled for the second half of 2024. Construction works are expected to begin in late 2024, and the initial operation is anticipated in 2028.

NSW minister for Climate Change and Energy, Penny Sharpe, said this milestone paves the way for a “significant boost in renewable energy generation to replace ageing coal-fired stations”. This is of particular importance given the Australian Energy Market Operator predicts all will be withdrawn in 2038.

“It’s not just about clean energy. This project will bring long-term financial benefits to both NSW electricity consumers and the local communities, which will host the Central-West Orana REZ,” Sharpe added.

PV Tech previously reported that the NSW government is developing at least five separate multi-gigawatt REZ facilities connected to the grid and partially using long-duration energy storage (LDES) to replace traditional centralised power plants. The five REZ include the Hunter-Central Coast, the South-West, New England, Central-West Orana, and Illawarra.

The REZ are not restricted to NSW but are scattered across the country’s states. Queensland, for instance, recently published a roadmap detailing how it would develop its 12 REZs. Victoria, on the other hand, has identified six REZ locations.

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