Project Spotlight: Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) project

NSW, renewable energy, renewables, REZ, sustainability, transmissions,


The $41m Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) project is New South Wales’ first state renewable energy zone.

The $41m Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) project spans over 20,000 square kilometres, covering the areas surrounding Dubbo and Dunedoo in NSW. It is the first of five renewable energy zones in the state to concentrate new wind and solar power generation for efficient storage and transmission.

The project has an initial network capacity of 3 gigawatts (GW) and has the potential for generating and storing renewable energy, making it a significant contributor to the National Electricity Market (NEM). It is part of the government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, which outlines a comprehensive plan for modernising the state’s energy infrastructure.

It was chosen following a geospatial mapping process undertaken by the NSW Government in 2018. This analysis sought locations that have the potential to host strong renewable energy resources. Since then, it has been recognised and declared the first REZ in Australia.

Moreover, it features a transmission project that aims to support the delivery of the REZ in NSW’s Central-West Orana region. This $5 million Central-West Orana REZ Transmission project includes energy hubs and high-voltage transmission lines designed to convey electricity from solar and wind farms to consumers.

About the Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) 

New transmission infrastructure will enable new wind and solar power sources for efficient storage and distribution in the renewable energy zones. These REZs group the sources into locations across New South Wales, ensuring the electricity grid’s reliability as coal-fired power plants phase out. It will also usher in substantial clean energy to fuel communities and urban centres. 

The Central-West Orana REZ is the first of the five zones to be announced and will help deliver large amounts of renewable energy to power the New South Wales region and cities. It receives high levels of sunlight throughout the year, making it an ideal location for solar farms. Additionally, the region experiences consistent wind patterns, which can be harnessed using wind turbines. The Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone is a groundbreaking New South Wales Government initiative to help transform the state’s energy landscape.

About the Central-West Orana REZ transmission project 

As the transmission project aims to support the delivery of REZ in the Central-West Orana region, the transmission lines will run north-west in New South Wales. It will begin from the existing network near Merriwa, passing south of Dunedoo before connecting to the current network located east of Wellington.

It also involves the construction of twin double-circuit 500 kV transmission lines and associated infrastructure for National Electricity Market (NEM) connectivity, as well as single and double-circuit 330 kV lines to link energy generation and storage projects within the Central-West Orana REZ to the energy hubs. 

What are transmissions? 

Transmission infrastructure encompasses the physical system of high-voltage power lines, substations, transformers, and related equipment that transmits electricity from power generation sources to distribution networks and end-users. It plays a vital role in supplying electricity over long distances efficiently, ensuring widespread access to power for homes, businesses, and industries. 

What are the benefits of the Central-West Orana REZ project? 

As the Central-West Orana REZ project plays a role in the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap in New South Wales, it will deliver many advantages. 

This project is expected to bring up to $10 billion in private investment to the region by 2030 and will support approximately 5,000 jobs in the engineering and construction industry. Moreover, implementing the roadmap will reduce wholesale electricity costs, helping consumers save on their energy bills. 

The roadmap also ensures a reliable energy supply by adding new renewable energy capacity, storage solutions, and firming strategies.

With the renewable energy zones being rolled out, it will help achieve the government’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The controversy around the Central-West Orana REZ project 

The Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) has sparked some controversy due to concerns from residents and landholders. Key issues include land acquisition, living near high-voltage transmission lines and electromagnetic fields (EMFs), visual impact affecting tourism and property values, environmental concerns like habitat destruction and noise pollution, and a lack of consultation and consideration of alternative solutions, such as decentralised renewable energy systems.

In response, the NSW Government has formed a Community Consultative Committee (CCC) comprising local council members, community groups, industry representatives, and health, environment, and engineering experts. This committee meets regularly to address REZ concerns and offers feedback to project stakeholders. The government also pledges to conduct comprehensive environmental and health assessments to mitigate project impacts. 

$128 million downpayment for communities in Central-West Orana REZ

Minister for Energy Penny Sharpe has announced communities in the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone will receive $128 million over the next four years to deliver community projects and employment opportunities.

The funding is the first downpayment to bring forward community and employment benefits, to ensure benefits flow before the construction of new transmission and renewable generation projects commences in late 2024.

Statewide, hundreds of millions of dollars of funding will become available over the next 30 years, leaving a lasting legacy for the communities hosting renewable energy projects in their area.

In the next six months the NSW Government will work closely with local councils, community and First Nations organisations, renewable energy companies and other stakeholders to identify and fund community priorities and long-term legacy programs in the region.

The types of projects that could be funded include:

  • public infrastructure upgrades
  • housing and accommodation
  • training and employment programs
  • health and education programs
  • support for energy efficiency and local rooftop solar, and
  • initiatives for First Nations people.

The Community and Employment benefit fund will be administered by NSW EnergyCo. Upfront funding will come from the Transmission Acceleration Fund, and after 2028 will be funded through access fees paid by renewable energy generators connecting to new transmission lines in the Central-West Orana REZ.

Over time, this program will be expanded to the other four REZs in NSW; New England, South West, Hunter-Central Coast and Illawarra.

The Central-West Orana REZ will become the renewable energy power plant of the future, delivering clean, affordable energy to NSW. The REZ is part of the NSW Government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap to deliver 12GW of renewable energy generation and 2GW of storage.

Source: © New South Wales Government 2023

Central-West Orana REZ Transmission project upgrade 

To facilitate the integration of renewable energy into the grid, the Central-West Orana REZ requires significant transmission upgrades. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has identified the need for additional transmission infrastructure to support the increased demand for electricity generated by the REZ.

To address this challenge, TransGrid, the National Electricity Market (NEM) operator in New South Wales, will have additional energy hubs and establish switching stations. This is to foster interconnection between energy generation, storage, and transmission. It also involves an upgrade of the existing substation at Wollar. 

This project encompasses establishing paired dual-circuit 500 kV transmission lines and their accompanying infrastructure to facilitate connectivity with the National Electricity Market. Additionally, it involves deploying single and double-circuit 330 kV lines to interconnect energy generation and storage initiatives within the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) with the regional energy hubs.

These transmission upgrades are essential to accommodate the growing capacity of renewable energy generation and storage within the REZ. 

Consultation/Community Engagement for the Central-West Orana REZ project

The success of the Central-West Orana REZ depends on the active participation of local communities. The NSW government recognises the importance of engaging with residents, landowners, and businesses in the region to ensure that the REZ delivers tangible benefits to the community while minimising potential negative impacts.

To achieve this goal, the government has established the Central-West Orana Community Network, which provides a platform for stakeholders to collaborate, share information, and address concerns.

Another critical aspect of community engagement is ensuring that the REZ supports local economic growth. The government works closely with regional councils, businesses, and industry groups to identify ways the REZ can stimulate local investment and innovation. For example, the REZ could attract new industries that rely on renewable energy, such as manufacturers of green products or data centres.

To support the development of the REZ, the NSW Government has established the Energy Corporation of NSW, which will coordinate the development of the REZ and work with industry, local councils, and other stakeholders to ensure that the zone is developed in a way that benefits both the local community and the state.

Overall, the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone represents a momentous step forward in Australia’s transition to renewable energy sources. It is a significant opportunity for investment, job creation, and sustainable economic growth in regional New South Wales. The REZ has the potential to transform the state’s energy landscape and will contribute to achieving the government’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The transmission project will commence in 2024, representing a vital step forward in bolstering the renewable energy capacity of the Central-West Orana REZ project.

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