Overview

The Dubbo Solar Hub is a project consisting of approximately 90 hectares of ground-mounted solar panels spread in two close locations in New South Wales: Dubbo and Narromine.

The aim of this project is to develop two environmentally and economically sound solar farms.

The Dubbo Solar Hub will generate approximately 61,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean, renewable electricity into the national power grid each year, thereby making a major contribution to Australia’s greenhouse gas reductions. This reduction will be equivalent to taking either 16,000 cars off the road or planting 80,000 trees, producing enough electricity to power approximately 9,000 homes with renewable energy.

In a context where solar energy has not yet reached parity with other Australian large-scale generation technologies like wind energy, the construction of the Dubbo Solar Hub is still dependent on government subsidies to proceed in the short term.

Neoen Australia has lodged an Expression of Interest to the Australian Renewable Agency (ARENA) on 2 November 2015, in order to seek financial support for the project. If the Dubbo Solar Hub is successful in attracting funding from the ARENA, it may start construction in Q4 2016 or Q1 2017. If not, Neoen is confident that the project still has good chances of proceeding, but in a longer timeframe.

Site selection

Dubbo and Narromine were identified as high potential locations for solar farms in 2013.

An initial feasibility assessment has been undertaken to determine the suitability of the two sites to accommodate a solar farm. This feasibility assessment has been based on the following criteria:

  • superior solar resources;
  • proximity to electricity network and connection capacity available at the anticipated connection point;
  • adequate local electricity load with potential for growth;
  • landholders supportive of developing a solar farm on their property;
  • low environmental impact;
  • low expected visual impact;
  • suitable land in terms of:
    • topography;
    • land area;
    • land zoning;
    • geology;
    • hydrology including flooding risk; and
    • access to the site.

Planning

Given the capital cost of the project, its development application will be assessed by the Narromine and Dubbo Councils, together with the Western Region Joint Regional Planning Panel.

In this context, Neoen has performed environmental and heritage studies to complete a Statement of Environmental Effect (SEE) for both Dubbo and Narromine sites in 2014, containing information regarding the following issues:

  • Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage (including field studies);
  • soils and geology;
  • drainage;
  • water quality;
  • flora and fauna;
  • air quality;
  • noise;
  • traffic and access;
  • visual quality;
  • social impact.

The two Statements of Environmental Effect could be lodged as early as January 2016 if the project is short-listed in ARENA’s large-scale competitive round, with a view to reach full consent for the Dubbo Solar Hub by June 2016.

Site Location and Preliminary Layout

The Dubbo Solar Hub project comprises approximately 90 hectares of private freehold land (60ha in Dubbo and 30ha in Narromine). Below is a preliminary layout of the two projects, based on the technical assessment and consultation undertaken to date:

These preliminary layouts provide for 29 megawatts peak (MWp) of solar panels; however, they may be amended to reflect the results of on-going technical assessments and discussions with the local community and regulators.

Electrical Connection

The electricity generated from the Dubbo plant will be transmitted via 11kV underground cabling to the Dubbo South Essential Energy substation, located approximately 2 kilometers to the west of the site, while the Narromine plant will be connected directly to an adjacent 22kV line, also owned by Essential Energy.

The power generated from the Dubbo Solar Hub will flow into the national interconnected network.