Construction of a $300 million solar plant capable of generating enough energy to power the equivalent of 33,000 homes each year has been given the green light by the New South Wales government in an effort to develop a large-scale renewable energy hub around the Broken Hill area.

State Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner says, subject to conditions, the Planning Assessment Commission has approved AGL’s Nyngan solar plant.

Once operational, the new project is expected to have a maximum generating capacity of 106 megawatts, enough to power the equivalent of 33,000 homes each year.

Construction of the plant will include, arrays of solar panels, inverters, transformers and underground electrical cables, a substation and an operations building, a three-kilometre transmission line to connect with the electricity grid and a 1.6-kilometre access road off the Barrier Highway.

Approval of the Nyngan plant follows earlier approval of a smaller 53-megawatt plant also to be built by AGL in March.

Both plants are being constructed under the federal government’s Solar Flagship Program, a $1.5 billion program which supports the construction and demonstration of large-scale, grid connected solar power stations in Australia.

AGL was selected as the preferred proponent for the Nyngan and Broken Hill projects by the federal government last year along with First Solar (Australia) Pty Ltd, the latter of which will provide engineering, construction and procurement services and will supply the advanced thin-film PV modules for the structure.

The Commonwealth Government will provide $129.7 million for the two projects while the NSW will provide $64.9 million, leaving AGL to finance the balance of the $450 million estimated capital expenditure for the combined projects.

Stoner says the two projects will deliver significant economic and environmental benefits.

“These two major solar projects – delivering nearly half a billion dollars of critical infrastructure to the State – will deliver a significant increase to the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources,” he says. “This is consistent with our renewable energy target, as outlined in the NSW 2021 state plan.”

As many as 300 jobs will be created during construction of the Nyngan plant and 150 will be created at the Broken Hill Plant.

AGL says the projects will be finished in 2015 and the company expects more opportunities for new solar developments as the cost of solar technology continues to decline.