The Stubbo Solar Farm and Battery Project is a 400-megawatt (MW) renewable energy generator that was approved by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in July 2021. It is being proposed across 1,750 hectares of mostly cleared grazing land in the Central West region of NSW.
The solar farm will be situated in the locality of Stubbo about 10 kilometres north of the historic mining town of Gulgong in the Mid-Western Regional Local Council LGA.
The flat cleared grazing land across the site will allow rows of photovoltaic panels to be installed with enough height and space for sheep to graze in and around the panels. They will provide welcome shade and protection to grazing animals from the hot summer sun.
Increasing experience in NSW with co-location of sheep grazing and solar farms suggests the vegetation cover across the site will recover quickly once construction is completed.
Depending on the final installed capacity, the solar farm will produce about one million megawatt hours of electricity each year, enough energy to power 150,000 typical NSW homes. It will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 600,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, equivalent to taking 190,000 cars off the road.
The project includes a 200 MWh battery energy storage system, meaning it can dispatch energy when it is most needed during peak hours and provide important grid stability services.
The solar farm can connect to the existing 330kV electricity transmission network.
The Stubbo Solar Farm and Battery Project has been assessed as a State Significant Development under Part 4 of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) is the responsible state planning authority for the project. A scoping report for the project was submitted to the DPIE, outlining the project as well as a preliminary environmental impact assessment. In response the department issued the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) for the project.
A range of assessments were carried out in line with these requirements, together making up the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. The EIS covered all facets of the project impact, from environmental through to social.
Following public consultation on the EIS, the department released its final assessment decision in July 2021, formally approving the project.
The project also complies with the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).
It is expected to be constructed over a two-year period.
Stubbo is a small locality located north east of Gulgong and about 115 kilometres east of Dubbo. It is situated in the Central Western Tablelands Region of NSW, within the Mid-Western Regional Local Council LGA.
The project site is located between Blue Springs Rd and Barneys Reef Rd and is in the centre of the NSW Government’s Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone.
Any potential visual impact from the solar farm will be minimised due to the local topography of the site and the surrounding vegetation. The potential layout of the solar farm will be designed to avoid visual impact from neighbouring dwellings.
Where there is any visual change, we are keen to work with our neighbours to reduce any impact and find a solution that benefits them and the solar farm.
Current farming practices such as sheep grazing can continue under and between the solar arrays, continuing the region’s close agricultural connection with the land.
Solar photovoltaic technology
Stubbo Solar Farm will consist of ground-mounted solar (PV) modules or panels that are made up of silicon-based solar cells. The cells convert sunlight into Direct Current (DC) energy that is converted to Alternating Current (AC) using inverters. It is then transported via underground cables to an electricity substation and injected into the main electricity grid via an existing transmission line.
The rows of panels will be installed on a single axis tracking system that follows the path of the sun, allowing for the maximisation of solar energy production across the site. More than two thirds of all solar farm generation in Australia is sourced from this type of technology.
The solar panels will be installed in rows with about 5 to 12 metres space in between them. This will allow safe access for maintenance and grassfire protection.
The electricity generated from the solar farm could also be stored in a Battery Energy Storage System so that it can be used at different times (peak periods), when demand for power is higher. The battery system can also be used to help improve grid stability and reliability. It can store electricity during the day and release it at night when the sun is not shining.
The solar farm will connect to the existing 330 kV transmission line that is operated by TransGrid.
Valley of the Winds
UPC\AC Renewables Australia has also been working on the Valley of the Winds project, a proposed 800-megawatt wind farm that is in the early stages of planning.
The project will be situated south of the township of Coolah in the Warrumbungle Shire, extending towards the Golden Highway about 50 kilometres north of the Stubbo Solar Farm. The undulating terrain in that area allows for the wind turbines to be sited on ridgelines within cleared land that is currently being used for livestock grazing. A scoping report for the project has been sudmitted to the NSW Department of Industry, Planning and Environment.
Birriwa Solar Farm and Battery Project
The Birriwa Solar Farm and Battery project is a 600-megawatt solar farm and battery energy storage project that is also being proposed by UPC\AC Renewables Australia.
It is proposed for development across a preliminary area of 1,200 hectares of mostly cleared grazing land, about 20km southwest of Dunedoo.
It is estimated the project would generate enough energy to power about 240,000 homes in New South Wales, with a life span of around 30 years. At the end of its life, the solar farm and battery equipment can be safely removed and the land returned to its original farming use.