Bowen launches stage one of massive New England Solar project

It is one of Australia’s largest solar projects to be participating in the National Electricity Market, with Stage 1 requiring the installation of close to a million solar panels.

Uralla solar
The ACEN Australia's New England Solar Project. Image supplied by ACEN Australia.

Stage 1 of ACEN Australia’s New England Solar project was officially opened yesterday by the Hon Chris Bowen MP, Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, marking a milestone in the project’s six-year journey to generate clean renewable energy into the National Electricity Market (NEM).

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 NEM, with Stage 1 requiring the installation of close to a million solar panels.

New England Solar was granted formal registration to send power into the NEM by the Australian Energy Market Organisation (AEMO) in December 2022 and since that time has been generating renewable energy. 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 personnel from the New England region.

ACEN Australia CEO Anton Rohner said the event was an important milestone for the energy transformation underway across NSW and Australia.

New England Solar is being built with the support of host landholders, First Nations people, and the Uralla community, with ACEN Australia aiming to invest more than $5M in community funding into Uralla over the next 25+ years as part of New England Solar.

The project's Uralla Grants scheme 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.

New England Solar also marks the start of ACEN Australia’s journey to take meaningful actions to provide opportunities for Aboriginal people to actively participate in their renewable energy projects.

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.

New England Solar is located near Uralla in the NSW Government’s New England Renewable Energy Zone.

Stubbo Solar in the NSW Central Orana Renewable Energy Zone is ACEN Australia's second project which commenced construction in late 2022. Other ACEN Australia projects include New England Battery (NSW), Birriwa Solar (NSW), Valley of the Winds (NSW), Aquila Wind (NSW), Phoenix Pumped Hydro (NSW), Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain Wind (TAS) and North East Wind (TAS).

To read more about the projects of ACEN Australia, go to their website here.

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