Boom in solar and wind farms across the central west

Photo: File.
Photo: File.

The central west of New South Wales has become a hub for renewable energy in recent months, with the impending construction of various large-scale solar and wind farms.

Earlier this month it was announced that the largest wind farm in Australia will be built between the townships of Coolah and Cassislis, with the Liverpool Range Wind Farm.

The construction of the Bodangora wind farm near Wellington commenced in July 2017.

Construction is still ongoing and once completed, there will be 33 wind turbines at the Wellington site. 

Other proposals include First Solar Australia’s 174 megawatt project bound for Goolma Road; and Photon Energy’s three solar farms planned for Mumbil, Maryvale and Suntop.

Photon Energy is proposing the sites for Mumbil (178MW, Burrendong Way), Maryvale (196MW on Bakers Lane, Maryvale) and Suntop (286MW on Suntop Road).

The Liverpool Range Wind Farm in the Upper Hunter region is set to deliver 800 new jobs and significantly boost the local economy.

The $643 million wind farm will generate almost one gigawatt of power, enough to power nearly 500,000 homes, and supports NSW’s Renewable Energy Action Plan of reducing greenhouse gases.

The wind farm, which spans 36 kilometres from north to south and 20 kilometres east to west, will become one of the largest in Australia, and will take three years to build.

Epuron (the proponent) has agreed on road upgrades with both Roads and Maritime Services and the councils, which includes 143 km of regional and local roads.

Warrumbungle Shire mayor Peter Shinton spoke to the Western Magazine earlier this month about the wind farm.

He had received an email from Epuron just days prior informing him that the Liverpool Range Wind Farm was going ahead.

“It’s the biggest in Australia, at this stage, by a long way…,” he said.

“It’s going to take three years to build, but whether that’s in the next three years I couldn’t tell you.”

Cr Shinton said he hoped the wind farm would generate work for locals.

“I don’t know how specialised the tasks are to build these towers… but at one stage we heard the construction workforce could be as many as 800 people,” he said.

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“And they’ve got to be accommodated somewhere… so that could be a money spinner, but the ongoing jobs after that I would think would be a dozen or less to service the wind farm and maintain roads leading to it…

“We’re looking forward to seeing what the spin-offs can be for local business.. can they provide some of the things that are required and hopefully they can.”  

Cr Shinton said “we’ve been looking at the plans for 6 years.”

“At one stage there were over 300 turbines when it started and gradually they’ve peeled them back…,” he said.

“Now we’ve got the finished product.”

Cr Shinton doesn’t believe the wind farm will affect a lot of landholders.

“We haven’t had the same level of angst form local farmers, because it’s not a closely settled area, you;re right out in bog farms, so we’re not getting that sort of protest,” he said.

Cr Shinton said quarries will have to be started to supply road gravels ot the area.

“A lot of that spoil out there is black, s o its not a very good road base, so they’re going to have to need road building materials…,” he said.

Some of the accesses will also have to be improved dramatically, Cr Shinton said.,

“There might be a small wooden bridge that may have to be upgraded to a large bridge just to carry the weight of the towers,” he said.

A Department of Planning spokesperson said the project will create local employment and increased demand and support for local goods and services during both the construction and operation phases.

“It is estimated to create around 800 jobs in the region during the construction phase. There will be an additional 47 jobs in the local area and up to 78 jobs across NSW once fully constructed,” the spokesperson said.