The state government has released a preliminary route map for one of the most critical pieces of new clean energy transmission infrastructure in Australia - the Hunter Transmission Project, which will link Bayswater and Eraring power stations.
Hunter communities have been invited to comment on the proposed 115-kilometre route, which will run across a combination of mining and industrial land, state forest and private property between Muswellbrook and Lake Macquarie.
The government has set an early 2028 deadline for the multi-billion dollar project, which will play an instrumental role in transporting renewable energy from the New England and Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zones to homes and businesses in the Hunter, Sydney and the Illawarra.
The HTP will involve building a new above-ground 500 kilovolt transmission line between the power stations to connect the state's existing 500 kV transmission lines.
This will help create a 500 kV ring of transmission infrastructure that will provide the backbone of the state's clean energy electricity grid.
The HTP towers will be around 70-metres tall and be spaced between 400 and 600 metres apart within a 70-metre-wide easement.
"The Hunter Transmission Project is critical to ensuring the future energy security of NSW," Energy Minister Penny Sharpe said.
"This project is essential to achieving our net zero targets and providing more affordable clean energy as coal-fired power stations close.
"It's also important to the economic future of the region and will boost local jobs and businesses."
The government's renewable energy authority, EnergyCo, said the preliminary route map was the result of extensive investigations of possible routes.
The proposed route seeks to strike a "reasonable balance" between different land uses and minimise the use of privately-owned land.
Between Bayswater and Broke, the corridor runs mostly through land owned by power stations and mining companies.
It then heads into the Pokolbin, Corrabare and Olney State forests (which are primarily used for growing commercial and native timber), before following the existing 500 kV transmission line through Martinsville and Cooranbong to Eraring.
"While some impacts are unavoidable, using the HTP preliminary corridor will help to avoid and minimise impacts on both people and the environment," the project overview, which was released on Monday, says.
EnergyCo is working with about 80 affected landowners along the preliminary route.
Landowners who host transmission infrastructure will receive increased payments under the state's Strategic Benefit Payments scheme.
"By limiting the number of landowners along this corridor, we have increased the prospect that the HTP can be delivered on time to meet the urgent operational deadline of early 2028 to maintain energy security in NSW," the project overview says.
In addition to being an essential link to the state's clean energy infrastructure, the project will harness the region's diverse skills base.
The project overview says it will also provide a boost to local businesses and provide job opportunities for Aboriginal communities.
Ms Sharpe encouraged the community to provide feedback on the proposed HTP route.
"Feedback will influence the location of the HTP corridor, and we want to resolve as much detail as possible with communities and potentially affected landowners in these early stages."
The proposed route will remain on public exhibition until Monday, 18th December 2023.
EnergyCo will continue working with local communities over the next 18 months to refine the project and ensure construction of the HTP maximises benefits to the region.
Feedback online or in person. For details about the project and consultation, visit: energyco.nsw.gov.au/htp
IN THE NEWS:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.