16 December 2022

Mates Gully Solar location change rumours 'not true'

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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There are currently a number of solar factories proposed for the Wagga Wagga electorate, including those at Mates Gully, Maxwell, North Wagga and Uranquinty

There are a number of solar factories proposed for the Wagga Wagga electorate, including those at Mates Gully, Maxwell, North Wagga and Uranquinty. Photo. File.

The controversial Mates Gully Solar Factory proposal will proceed as planned despite alleged rumours of it being relocated to a Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).

The proposed project is a solar farm with a generation capacity of up to 160 megawatts and a battery energy storage system that could output 100 megawatts over four hours.

The electricity generated by the solar farm would provide enough reliable, clean electricity to power about 90,000 NSW homes, while offsetting the emission of more than 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year according to the Australian Energy Regulator and the Clean Energy Regulator.

However the location of the proposed project 30 kilometres east of Wagga between Borambola and Tarcutta is on prime agricultural lands and local landowners have called on Spark Renewables to move the project site to a Renewable Energy Zone.

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Recently the Riverina Sustainable Food Alliance (RSFA) called on Spark Renewables to address strong rumours that the Mates Gully Solar Factory proposal would no longer proceed and would instead be relocated to an REZ.

RSFA spokesperson James Gooden said farmers and businesses in the area deserved to know if Spark Renewables was going to proceed with their proposal at Mates Gully.

“The Mates Gully Solar Factory has caused much angst and concern amongst our community, and Spark Energy (Spark Renewables) needs to come clean about the future of this proposal,” Mr Gooden said.

Spark Renewables head of development Will Stone deemed the rumours “not true” and said Spark Renewables was planning to “undertake detailed environmental studies in 2023”.

Mr Stone said along with the environmental studies, Spark Renewables was also planning to undertake an “agricultural impact statement and assessments of potential impacts on biodiversity, Aboriginal cultural heritage, visual amenity, and a range of other subjects”.

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“This will form part of the environmental impact statement that is submitted with the development application,” he said.

“All studies will be undertaken in accordance with the updated NSW Large-Scale Solar Energy Guideline which was released earlier this year.”

Mr Gooden said the RSFA had always said that this project needed to be in an REZ, not on prime agricultural land.

“The NSW Government established the REZ’s to give landholders and renewable energy companies certainty, but companies like Spark Energy have simply disregarded the Government and our community by choosing to propose projects outside a REZ.”

“Spark Energy has an obligation to operate with a social licence and unless they move their Mates Gully proposal to a REZ, they will continue to operate without one.”

Mr Gooden said he hoped Spark Energy was beginning to realise the fastest way to get this project up and for Spark Energy to regain their social licence was to move it to an REZ.

“We know there is a tight timeline to get these projects up and running before our coal-fired power stations shut down,” Mr Gooden said.

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