New England Solar, Australia’s largest solar farm with a million solar panels, was officially opened yesterday in Uralla.
Stage 1 of ACEN Australia’s New England Solar project was officially opened yesterday by Chris Bowen, the Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy. The 720 megawatt (AC) project is being developed in two stages and was approved by the NSW Government in 2020. The first 400 megawatt (AC) stage of the project has been in construction since March 2021. It is one of Australia’s largest solar projects to be participating in the National Energy Market, with Stage 1 requiring the installation of close to a million solar panels.
Speaking at the event, Mr Bowen praised ACEN for their engagement with the community and the broad support they had for the large project.
“Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy available, and it is absolutely vital in our plans to reduce emissions in Australia by 43 per cent by 2030, to move our energy grid to 82 per cent renewables.”
“And, importantly, the areas that have powered Australia for so long will power Australia into the future and increasingly that will be the New England,” he said.
“This solar farm when it’s fully up and running can power 250,000 Australian homes and, importantly, it will include storage.”
“Dispatchable renewable energy is the way of the future.”
New England Solar has been generating renewable energy since December. Stage 1 of the project is expected to be generating at full name plate capacity of 400 megawatts (AC) in the coming months.
During construction, up to 400 workers have been on site during peak activity, upgrading and maintaining roads, installing and building supporting infrastructure, and constructing and connecting tracking systems and installing solar PV modules. Around 80% of this peak workforce has been filled by New England locals.
ACEN Australia CEO Anton Rohner said the event was an important milestone for the energy transformation underway across NSW and Australia.
“I truly believe that the work ACEN Australia is doing to accelerate Australia’s transition to a renewable energy future is here and now – and it starts with New England Solar,” he said.
“We decided to build New England Solar on a fully merchant basis to ensure it is online in time to help replace closing coal fired power stations in NSW.”
“We wanted to get things built, to decarbonise Australia.”
New England Solar is being built with the support of host landholders, First Nations people, and the Uralla community.
“They are at the heart of what we do, and I want to personally thank them for putting their trust in us.”
ACEN Australia is investing more than $5M in community funding into Uralla over the next 25 years as part of New England Solar.
“We understand the importance of sharing in the benefits that our projects can provide. I’m particularly proud of the work already invested through the Uralla Grants Program, under the stewardship of the project’s Community Reference Group, an independent body consisting of Uralla-based members that brings together a mix of skills and deep understanding of the local region, its history, and the people who live here.”
Uralla Grants provides assistance and support to the community to promote community resilience, prosperity, sustainability, and recreation. At completion of Stage 1 construction $200,000 in grants will have already been delivered.
ACEN Australia has more than 1GW capacity in construction, and more than 8GW capacity in the development pipeline. This represents a significant portion of ACEN’s international portfolio, said ACEN CEO Eric Francia.
“This milestone establishes Australia as a stronghold for ACEN’s renewables expansion in the region, and the Australia team continues to harness the country’s outstanding potential for clean energy to help ACEN reach its goal of 20GW of renewables capacity by 2030,” he said.