Photon Energy proposes $380m solar farm at Gunning

Gunning district hobby farmer Tracy Bassett says her family's 90-acre property will be surrounded on two sides by solar panels.

Gunning district hobby farmer Tracy Bassett says her family's 90-acre property will be surrounded on two sides by solar panels.

Two adjoining grazing properties near Gunning will be transformed into the state’s largest solar farm under a plan by Photon Energy.

The $380 million development, comprising “hundreds of thousands of panels,” is proposed for a 590 hectare site 12km southwest of Gunning on the Lade Vale Road. The company has lodged a development application with the NSW Department of Planning for the 316 megawatt farm spanning the Lade Vale and Yellanglo properties.

The project has come out of the blue for Upper Lachlan Shire Council. Acting general manager Andrew Croke said he was only advised by the Department last Friday.

But Photon managing director Michael Gartner said the company had been working on the project for a year.

“We were looking for suitable locations and that land is ideal with two parallel 330 kilovolt transmission lines crossing the properties we acquired. That means we have the grid infrastructure on site,” he said.

The high voltage was necessary for the solar farm but the network’s capacity along the east coast of Australia and the interconnections with Sydney, the ACT, Snowy Mountains and Victoria was also a drawcard.

The company intends to sell wholesale electricity to the grid. Mr Gartner said the project was motivated by the need to meet Australia’s renewable energy target, supplement energy requirements and to help reduce prices to consumers.

The managing director argued power generation was lagging demand, partly due to the Hazelwood power station’s closure, and this in turn was increasing the wholesale electricity price.

“We are seeing a transformation to renewable energy,” he said.

“It really is the only choice because it’s too costly to build coal powered stations. We have to do this from a cost perspective but also as a duty to the next generation.” 

A substation will be built near the transmission lines. The company will also explore energy storage on the site in future, Mr Gartner says.

Hundreds of thousands of panels would cover about a quarter of the site, allowing sheep grazing to co-exist. The company maintains this number is needed to achieve economies of scale.

The solar farm is proposed for a 590ha site 12km southwest of Gunning.

The solar farm is proposed for a 590ha site 12km southwest of Gunning.

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