New England solar and wind projects ready to replace Liddell power station

HEAVY HITTER: The region will be a big player in the renewable energy industry in the coming years. Photo: Ian Waldie
HEAVY HITTER: The region will be a big player in the renewable energy industry in the coming years. Photo: Ian Waldie

RENEWABLE projects are more than capable of replace the electricity generated by the Liddell power station when it closes in 2022, the Australian Wind Alliance says.

There are more than 1000 megawatts of wind and solar being built across the state, with a further 2600 megawatts of projects approved, most of which will be completed by the time the 1680-megawatt Liddell station stops operating.

New England is pulling its weight in the renewable sector, with more than 770MW of solar or wind projects – enough to power more than 330,500 every year – either approved, under construction or up and running.

That includes the White Rock Wind Farm at Glen Innes (300MW), the Sapphire Wind Farm at Inverell (270MW), the Metz Solar Farm near Armidale (100MW) and the Gunnedah Solar Farm (27MW).

The region’s renewable megawatt figure could skyrocket if a number of proposed projects are given the green light, such as the 60MW solar farm in Narrabri and the 155MW solar project in Gunnedah.

While many argue renewable energy is unable to provide reliable base-load power, Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator Andrew Bray said the agrument was fast becoming redundant. 

“New wind and solar farms will generate power at different times in different parts of the state so their output is highly predictable and dependable," Mr Bray said.

“Cheap renewables combined with modern solutions like batteries and demand management will keep the system reliable and lower power bills. And speedy one to two-year construction periods mean these projects can be up and running by 2022."

The government intents to extend the life time of Liddell power station by five years, which is oldest coal-fired power station still running in Australia, first commissioned in 1971. 

But Mr Bray said a recent report by the nation's energy regulator, the Australian Energy Market Operator, showed older power stations were a risk to the network due to their increased vulnerability to heat waves, while "renewable generation can provide some support to maintain reliability even without firming capability".

“The worst response to spiralling energy bills and a fragile system would be to prop up an old clunker like Liddell, Mr Bray said.

“Liddell is the oldest and least reliable plant in Australia’s energy grid. It failed during the February heat wave in NSW at a time when it was needed most.”