Overview

The Parkes Solar Farm is a project consisting of 210 hectares of ground mounted solar panels approximately 10km west of Parkes in New South Wales.

The aim of this project is to develop an environmentally and economically sound solar farm.

Parkes Solar Farm will generate approximately 138,000 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 38,000 cars off the road or planting 195,000 trees, producing enough electricity to power approximately 21,000 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 Parkes Solar Farm 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 Parkes Solar Farm 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

Parkes was identified by Neoen as a high-potential location for a solar farm in 2013.

An initial feasibility assessment has been undertaken to determine the suitability of the area 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 (ex: through new national logistic hub);
  • 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 NSW Department of Planning.

In this context, a Scoping Report for the Parkes Solar Farm has been lodged with the state planning in May 2014. Following lodgment, the NSW Department of Planning issued the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements in December 2014.

These requirements are now being used as a basis for the current Environmental Impact Assessment undertaken by Neoen with the environmental specialist NGHEnvironmental.

Studies undertaken will include:

  • biodiversity;
  • heritage (including Aboriginal heritage);
  • visual amenity;
  • noise assessment;
  • hydrology and flooding;
  • soils;
  • traffic and transport;
  • bushfire risk.

Lodgement of the full development application is planned for late February 2016, with determination expected in June 2016.

Site Location and Preliminary Layout

The Parkes Solar Farm site comprises 210 hectares of private freehold land. Below is a preliminary layout based on the technical assessment and consultation undertaken to date:

This preliminary layout provides for up to 66 megawatts peak (MWp) of solar panels; however, it 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 solar farm will be transmitted via underground cabling or overhead transmission line to the Parkes TransGrid substation, located only 600 meters from the project. This substation is connected directly into the national electricity transmission grid. The power generated from the Parkes Solar Farm will flow into the national interconnected network.