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Australian first: co-location wind and solar farm planned near Crookwell

International wind power company Goldwind Australia is proposing a new renewable energy project at its Gullen Range Wind Farm, in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales.

In what would be an Australian first, the company is planning to build a 30 to 50 hectare solar farm at the same site as the wind farm, 12 kilometeres south of Crookwell.

If approved, the farm could produce up to 25,000 megawatt-hours per annum, enough energy to power around four thousand homes in NSW.

While still in the planning stages, Goldwind says that the opportunity to use the existing infrastructure created for the wind farm was a fantastic opportunity.

“The land was there for the wind farm, the infrastructure was there, so we are just trying to take advantage of that,” said John Gardner, a Senior Manager of Projects at Goldwind Australia.

“We are able to use that existing infrastructure to maximise the use of it and get a bit more renewable energy into the grid”.

The solar farm will be on land currently owned by the company and Mr Gardner said the panels will look the same as solar systems seen on homes and businesses.

“The field of solar panels will be approximately 30 hectares in size, mounted on steel frames and connected with underground cable to the substation,” he said.

The project is in the planning stages at the moment, with the hope of submitting the development application to the Upper Lachlan Shire Council in May.

“We are just commencing investigations,” explained Mr Gardner.

“We’ve done some ecological studies and we are just starting some of the other studies required by the development application”.

Those remaining studies include visual and noise assessments and the financial viability of the project.

Having faced criticism over its Gullen Range Wind Farm, which is currently challenging the NSW Planning and Assessment Commission’s decision to refuse a modified development application that the company lodge retrospectively, Goldwind is already talking to nearby neighbours about the planned solar farm.

“We’ve just started the community consultation process,” John Gardner said.

“We have a community information evening later this month so that will be an opportunity for the community to get involved and that’s just the start of the community engagement process”.

Once Goldwind Australia lodges its development application with the Upper Lachlan Shire Council and they make their recommendations, the NSW Joint Regional Planning panel makes the final decision.

The economic climate and ongoing discussions around the federal government’s review of the Renewable Energy target (RET) will also play a role in the company deciding whether this solar farm is constructed.

“The review of the RET is going to determine the price of renewable energy that the project produces, and there’s other economic impacts like the exchange rate at the moment,” Mr Gardner said.

“But we’ve committed to spending quite a considerable amount of money in undertaking all these studies with the hope that the factors that aren’t in our control all line up at the end of the day and we can kick it off”.

Goldwind Australia will hold a public consultation at the end of February, and hopes construction might start on the Gullen Solar Farm by the end of 2015.