Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall scaled a 137-metre high turbine at Sapphire Windfarm before announcing plans to transform the New England into the power hub of Australia.
An $80 million investment by the State Government will help fund an 8,000-megawatt New England Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) or in Minister Kean’s words “the biggest power station in the country”.
“Cheap, clean, renewable energy will be generated right here in the New England region. It’ll see $12 billion worth of investment coming into our communities here. Over 2000 new jobs will be involved in the construction of this power station and 1300 permanent jobs once complete,” he said.
As the New England naturally offers wind, solar and land, Mr Kean said the project will focus on ensuring the build is done in a coordinated way to protect prime agricultural land.
The first phase will see the State Government work with local councils in the region, including Glen Innes Severn Council, and community members to map and plan where the zone will be build and the energy mix involved.
“We have to plan where the generation will go, where the wind farm will go and where the storage will go; all in alignment with the community so we have their support. We also have to make sure we plan for the building of transmission to take the electricity generated here to the big markets on the east coast.”
Minister Kean said the timeline of construction will begin in days lasting until 2030 and believes the announcement will see families and businesses across the state benefit from cheaper, cleaner, reliable power.
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Mr Marshall said the Renewable Energy Zone will be the most significant development for the New England region in a whole generation.
“We are talking about converting the wonderful resources we have and transforming our region into the virtual electricity powerhouse of NSW. For the first time ever in our region’s history, we will be an exporter of energy which means more jobs, more money, more investment and more growth.”
Mr Marshall said the State Government was eager to avoid unnecessary angst, land use conflicts and “awkward town hall meetings”.
Inverell Shire Council mayor Paul Harmon said although the New England region covered a large footprint, Inverell would benefit from this announcement.
“We’ve already seen what the investment has done for our shire with the wind farm. This certainly builds on that with renewable energy and gives our region fantastic opportunities to create jobs and growth for our community.
“Not only will we be an energy hub, but producing jobs means our kids won’t have to move away and people can build a lifestyle here in the New England and we know how wonderful that is. Let’s keep people here and give them new opportunity.”
Mayor Harmon said council already have a few ideas and are open to seeing what projects they can help with to assist with the REZ.
“Certainly its a great announcement for the people of the New England.”