The Birriwa Solar Farm and Battery project is a 600-megawatt solar farm and battery energy storage project. It is proposed for development across a preliminary area of 1,200 hectares of mostly cleared grazing land, about 20km southeast of Dunedoo, located within the New South Wales Government’s Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone.
It is estimated the project would generate enough energy to power about 240,000 homes in New South Wales, with a life span of around 30 years. At the end of its life, the solar farm and battery equipment can be safely removed and the land returned to its original farming use.
It is anticipated construction of the Birriwa Solar Farm and Battery project would take about two years, employing over 400 people during construction and generating a number of ongoing full time roles during operations. We will also seek to enhance opportunities for local and regional business participation through goods and services associated with the project.
The site has been selected due to its ideal features – mostly flat or gently undulating land relatively free of vegetation due to historical clearing for agriculture.
It is also ideally situated away from towns but is still readily accessible by road. The project site is located in the NSW Government's Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) and will be able to connect to the national electricity grid via a transmission line currently being developed by the NSW Government as part of the REZ infrastructure program.
Assessment and approvals
The Birriwa Solar Farm and Battery project is being assessed as a State Significant Development under Part 4 of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) is the responsible state planning authority for the project. A scoping report for the project was submitted to the DPIE, outlining the project as well as a preliminary environmental impact assessment requirement. In response the Department issued the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) for the project.
A range of assessments are currently being carried out in line with these requirements, together making up the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. The EIS will cover all facets of the project impact, from environmental through to social including community consultation with the Birriwa, Dunedoo and Gulgong residents.
The project will comply with the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).
‘The disturbance footprint will be adjusted where possible to avoid any areas of high biodiversity value’
A key land use in the local area is agriculture, consisting primarily of sheep and cattle grazing and dry land cropping. As such, a large majority of the project area contains non-native vegetation and is largely cleared. Areas of native vegetation occur within and surrounding the project area in the form of scattered paddock trees, vegetation along local roads, creek lines and windbreaks. Biodiversity surveys have commenced at the site to ground truth available vegetation mapping and to conduct targeted flora and fauna surveys. The disturbance footprint will be adjusted where possible to avoid any areas of high biodiversity value
‘The project layout will consider areas of cultural significance in consultation with the local Aboriginal organisations’
An Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment (ACHA) will be prepared for the project in accordance with relevant regulations and guidelines. This will include an archaeological survey and consultation with the Aboriginal community. We have been working with seven Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) who have assisted and guided the methodology for the ACHA. The RAPs will remain involved throughout the development process as well as the construction stage. The archaeological survey commenced in early November2021. The project layout will consider areas of cultural significance in consultation with the registered Aboriginal parties.
The impact of noise during the construction and operation of the solar farm will be assessed as part of the EIS. A road traffic noise assessment will also be included in the EIS to assess noise impacts associated with project-related vehicle movements along the local road network during the construction phase of the project. Mitigation measures will be implemented if required
‘The members of the community are invited to share their thoughts on access route options’
The primary transport route to the site will be via Castlereagh Highway and the Golden Highway. The site access route is currently under an options assessment review and will comprise one of three options:
Option 1 – two-way access via Barneys Reef Road
Option 2 – two-way access via Birriwa Bus Route
Option 3 – one-way access: in via Barneys Reef Road and out via Birriwa Bus Route. The three options are being considered in relation to environmental and social impacts. Consultation with the community and relevant government agencies on the extent of the road upgrades is ongoing.
The potential impact of the solar farm on local riparian waterways will be assessed in the EIS. A specialist hydrology report is being prepared to understand these potential impacts and identify measures to effectively protect waterways and avoid erosion across the site.
Understanding your views
UPC\AC Renewables Australia will work with local communities during the assessment and planning process to help us understand the benefits and impacts. We will be listening to community and stakeholder views of the project to help us understand any changes that can be considered to improve it. We want the project to be a valued and long term part of the local community for many years to come.
We place a large emphasis on face-to-face engagement and will seek to meet with members of the community in person as much as is possible.
To help us do this, we have opened a project office in Gulgong at 79B Herbert St, opposite Cobbs Bakery. We will provide notice to the local community when the office will be open, so we can meet and discuss the project.