New South Wales gets 34GW of solar, storage and wind proposals for latest REZ, more than 10 times final capacity

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The South-West REZ is to be located to the west of the city of Wagga Wagga and straddle the state’s border with Victoria. Image: Foresight Solar Fund.

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has received proposals for more than 34GW of solar, wind and energy storage for its South-West Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), more than 10 times the likely capacity of the site.

NSW, through its recently formed Energy Corporation that will oversee the state’s REZs, held a registration of interest (ROI) in October and November 2021 for the South-West REZ, which is one of five planned zones in Australia.  

In total, 49 applications from renewables and storage developers made up the 34GWs of proposals, which was 13 times the intended capacity for the REZ, according to James Hay, Energy Corporation CEO, adding that the REZ will be no less than 2.5GW in capacity.

The South-West REZ is to be located to the west of the city of Wagga Wagga and straddle the state’s border with Victoria. Its location and design has been slightly amended since its original plan in 2018, now taking up more land and extending as far west as Buronga.

The location had been picked due to an “abundance of high-quality solar and other energy resources, proximity to project EnergyConnect, relative land-use compatibility and a strong pipeline of proposed projects,” the NSW government said.

REZs in Australia, and in particular in NSW, have proven phenomenally popular with solar developers looking to take advantage of the streamlined grid connection process and other purported benefits. The last REZ to formally open for generation bids attracted 34GW of proposals, equivalent to being more than four-times oversubscribed.

Conversely, while new research has revealed that solar PV and wind continue to be the cheapest new-build electricity generation options in Australia, even when considering their additional integration costs such as energy storage and transmission, Australian companies plan to spend AU$5.1 billion (US$3.7 billion) on offshore gas exploration over the next six years, enough to develop 2.5GW of renewables.  

In October, just before COP26, the Australian federal government committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 but did not pass any legislation to support such a transition in a move that was described as “disappointing” and “unambitious” by the country’s Clean Energy Council.

Analysts PV Tech spoke with at the time of the net zero announcement said many Australian states had far more ambitious climate goals than the federal government, with state governments being the main drivers of the energy transition.

Meanwhile, a leading Australian barrister and former head of the Law Council of Australia has said the federal government’s plans to invest public money into fossil fuel production could be illegal, is open to serious legal challenge and is “at odds” with the purpose of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

A feature article exploring the use of REZs in Australia and their use in attracting solar investment into the country was included within volume 27 of PV Tech Power and can be read in full here.

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