Ambitious plan for large-scale solar farms and hydrogen storage projects in NSW and Victoria

A leading Australian renewable energy company is rolling out a $500 million solar farm portfolio across regional NSW, with twenty sites already confirmed and construction expected to start in early 2021. The ground-breaking game changer is the 30MWh advanced hybrid storage technology – including hydrogen storage and traditional Li-ion batteries that will be attached to each project.

Providence Asset Group, a leading Australian Environmental, Social and Governance investor in renewable and clean energy projects, has announced its NSW Master Plan that includes 28 solar farms across the state, a mix of Providence-owned and community-owned projects, along with innovative storage facilities based on technology pioneered in Australia. The company is also exploring similar opportunities in Victoria, potentially giving Providence the largest portfolio of regional community based solar projects of any renewable energy investment company in Australia.

The $500 million investment includes $250 million in the construction of the solar farms themselves, and another $250 million in storage solutions for the energy that’s generated. 

Earlier this year, the NSW Government committed $3.5 million from its Regional Community Energy Program to fund a hydrogen battery storage system for the Manilla Solar Farm, which will be a world-first in terms of scale. Providence is a leading investor in the area of hydrogen storage innovation, working with the University of NSW to develop the technology, which enables the storage of surplus electricity more cost-effectively than the lithium batteries currently in use.

The hybrid battery storage system developed at UNSW is known as H2Store, a compact and transportable hydrogen storage solution that has proven highly effective in storing and generating renewable energy, reducing the fluctuation of renewable generation and increasing confidence in the security of energy supply. Under Providence’s Master Plan, the storage component could accommodate 1.2GWh of clean energy, or the equivalent  energy to power 40,000 homes for 6 hours during the peak demand period. 

Llewellyn Owens, Providence’s Chief Technology Officer said, “The development of low-cost hydrogen storage translates to untold benefits for our homes and businesses, with Manilla the first location in Australia to demonstrate its commercial potential. It’s incredibly satisfying to see this technology developed by the UNSW being used in large-scale applications and helping establish Australia as a leader in the transition to renewable energy.”

Late last year, Providence unveiled the first of its solar farms at Manilla in North West NSW, a community-owned model where the town has access to cheaper energy, receives a portion of the profits from the project and local people have an opportunity to invest in the renewable energy initiative. 

“As our state recovers from the twin disasters of drought and bushfire, and now confronts the impact of COVID-19, we are excited about what our plan can contribute to our economic recovery, with significant investment in 28 towns around NSW and an estimated 750 state-wide jobs in the construction and post-construction phases of individual projects. There will also be additional employment opportunities connected to the hydrogen energy storage infrastructure,” said Matthew Muller, Providence Asset Group Head of Strategy.

“Providence recognises the enormous opportunities that exist in our regions and we’re excited to be partnering with regional communities in furthering the potential of renewable energy – not only in terms of its generation but also its storage, which will help establish Australia as a frontrunner when it comes to a cheaper, greener and more reliable solar energy supply.”

The solar farm projects in the company’s Master Plan will produce about 100MW of renewable energy generation in regional NSW and complements the NSW Government’s Electricity Strategy that delivers three renewable energy zones in the Central-West Orana, New England, and South West regions. 

Matthew said a total of 28 sites had been identified, with 20 of these confirmed and under lease and negotiations underway in the other locations. It’s hoped construction on the farms can begin early next year, to be completed by April 2022.

“Renewable energy is already lauded as being cheaper and greener, recognising the climate change concerns of people around the globe. The way our Master Plan has been structured not only takes full advantage of these existing benefits, it also puts community and regional prosperity and opportunities to the fore,” he said. 

“We’re aiming to be Australia’s leading investment firm for renewable energy, and we are also proud to be playing a part in bringing jobs and meaningful investment to the regions of NSW, and helping these areas diversify their range of industries for the benefit of local and state economies.”

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