One of Australia’s largest solar and big battery projects, the Culcairn solar farm being built by Neoen Australia north of Albury-Wodonga on the New South Wales and Victorian border, has been granted approval by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC).
The massive project will install 350MW of solar PV on single axis tracking and a 100MW/200MWh lithium-ion big battery to provide grid support and firming services, which Neoen says will put ‘downward pressure’ on wholesale electricity prices, particularly at peak demand periods.
The NSW IPC approved the project with a series of conditions, which will require Neoen to undertake measures that minimise any potentially adverse environmental impacts, and the preparation of a plan for returning the site to its original condition after the project is decommissioned.
The approval comes despite the concerns of the local Greater Hume Council that the solar farm would impact the visual amenity for nearby residents, would create a ‘heat island’ effect and would lead to the loss of agricultural lands.
Similar concerns were raised over the nearby Walla Walla solar farm being developed by FRV, including over the potential for a ‘nuclear meltdown’ style of failure in the project’s big battery, but this project, too, was approved.
Neoen noted that only a small proportion of the land selected for the Culcairn solar farm would become unavailable for agricultural use, with most directly affected landowners planning to continue grazing livestock and other agricultural activities around the solar farm.
“Co-locating solar farm with agricultural sheep grazing is a viable way to ensure that farm activity and farm output is not lost, as well as provide both meat and wool to ‘feed the nation,’ with pasture maintained for sheep feed as well as additional benefits such as dust and erosion control,” Neoen said.
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