NGH’s involvement in this project spans over four years, from scoping, through assessment and post approvals and construction support. We remain dedicated to ensuring another successful project for industry leading FRV through to and including operation.
It’s been a long journey, but very happy to see us moving on to the next chapter with Walla Walla and gearing up to start construction. NGH’s input throughout the project has been invaluable, and I’d like to say thank you to you and the team for your hard work, especially throughout both of our modifications.
The construction of the Walla Walla Solar Farm in New South Wales promises to deliver a reliable, clean and renewable energy supply to help NSW and Commonwealth governments meet electricity infrastructure and climate change objectives. The project will consist of approximately 700,000 solar panels installed across 430 ha within the 605 ha site, generating 300 MW(ac) of energy – enough to power around 112,000 homes in the area.
NGH was engaged during the planning stage to complete the constraints assessments and scoping reports. As the project progressed, our team commenced work on the environmental impact statement (EIS), subsequent post-modifications, and environmental management planning stages.
Minimal impact on vistas and grazing
Walla Walla is a picturesque rural town with agricultural grazing and cropping areas as well as rural residential areas. In recent times, the community has seen the development of a number of solar farms in and around the area. As a result, the project initially faced opposition from the community due to concerns about the loss of agricultural production and the visual impact of the solar farm.
NGH worked hard with FRV to ensure the community was well informed with timely and accurate details throughout all stages of the project development.
Given the community sentiment at that time, NGH recognised the importance of focusing on visual amenity. The team worked closely with the NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment (now NSW DPE) and the community to create high-quality depictions and graphic representations, that were less common at the time, to help visualise the solar farm’s impact throughout the EIS, consultation and modification project stages.
To address agricultural concerns, we undertook a specialist agricultural impact assessment. The assessment demonstrated minimal change to the local and regional agricultural economy, whilst enabling the innovative landholders to secure additional income streams and improve the resilience of their farm businesses, as well as positive economic contributions to the wider local and regional economy. The statement also detailed the win-win potential of solar grazing for vegetation management and agricultural production.
Protecting heritage value
Across such a large site and due to the nature of the landscape heritage was always going to be a consideration. NGH modelling predicted that there would be archaeological items and heritage value based on our knowledge of the area. Our Heritage team engaged with the local Aboriginal community and established a record of community values and identified physical avoidance areas, and where avoidance wasn’t possible undertook test excavations alongside the community and recorded artefact findings. We provided support to salvage heritage artefacts with onsite reburial in an avoided area associated with a hearth that was preserved.
Success four years in the making
FRV was subsequently granted permission to proceed to construction.
To support them, we are currently engaged in the development and implementation of key landscape, biodiversity and heritage management plans, as well as land, soil, and water management plans.
It is anticipated that Walla Walla Solar Farm will be commissioned by 2025.