Construction of the South Australian component of Project EnergyConnect, the new high-voltage transmission line between South Australia and New South Wales, has been completed.

Project EnergyConnect is the largest transmission project ever delivered by ElectraNet. The South Australian component of the new transmission line covers 206km from Robertstown to the South Australia/New South Wales state border and includes South Australia’s first 330kV substation at Bundey.

Enabling a clean energy transition

ElectraNet CEO, Simon Emms, said Project EnergyConnect is a transformational project for South Australia and the National Electricity Market.

Project EnergyConnect is the latest in a series of major network projects delivered by ElectraNet in the past five years, essential to enabling South Australia’s clean energy transition and net zero goals. “The interconnector strengthens South Australia’s position as a leader in the transition to a low-carbon economy and enhances our ability to export our abundance of renewable energy resources,” Mr Emms said.

“As well as unlocking renewable energy developments, it strengthens South Australia’s power grid, and will deliver price savings for customers. Once in full operation the new interconnector is expected to deliver bill savings of $127 for a typical South Australian residential power customer and between $6,000 and $18,000 for business customers.

“Project EnergyConnect is already contributing to South Australia’s clean energy future through new renewable energy developments in excess of 2GW, including wind, solar and batteries that are now proposing to connect to the grid.”

The new interconnector will have a capacity of 800MW, which is the equivalent of delivering energy to 240,000 extra households. South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining, Tom Koutsantonis said, “I congratulate ElectraNet for completing the South Australian side of Project EnergyConnect.” The South Australian Government now looks forward to final investment decisions being made by the many renewable energy companies, which intend to use this link to the New South Wales market.

“South Australia has plenty of sun and wind resources which can be harnessed as energy for sale to NSW. “An alternative to South Australia’s transmission connection with Victoria should reduce reliability risk and price impacts that might occur if the Victorian line has operational issues,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

Neoen Australia’s CEO, Louis de Sambucy, said the new interconnector was a significant factor in their South Australian investment.

“South Australia is already a world leader in the renewable energy transition, and Project EnergyConnect will play a crucial role in enabling the state to reach its goal of net 100 per cent renewables,” Mr de Sambucy said.

“Neoen currently has over 1GW of wind generation and battery storage in South Australia in operation or under construction. As a long-term owner-operator, SA’s ongoing energy policy leadership and our deep partnership with ElectraNet have been major factors in our continued investments here.

“Among its numerous other benefits to consumers, Project EnergyConnect will help provide transmission capacity for additional stages of our Goyder Renewables Zone in SA’s Mid North, leveraging the area’s world-class renewable resources and unlocking billions of dollars in investment for South Australia.”

Delivering on time and in budget

Mr Emms said successful delivery of the South Australian component on time and within budget was a credit to all involved. “The engagement with a large number of stakeholders throughout the project’s duration has played an important role in ensuring its successful delivery,” Mr Emms said.

“We would like to thank the Ngadjuri People, the River Murray Mallee Aboriginal Corporation (RMMAC), the First Peoples of the River Murray and Mallee Region 2, the Aboriginal Lands Trust, and the Renmark Paringa and Mid Murray councils for their assistance and support.

“I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of the ElectraNet project team and the multiple project contractors that delivered the project despite several challenges including weather, equipment and COVID-19. “Our transmission line contractor Downer delivered the 384 new transmission towers and associated stringing works, and Consolidated Power Projects delivered the new Bundey Substation.

Inter-network testing of Stage 1 of the new interconnector is scheduled to begin following construction completion of Stage 1 works on the New South Wales side by Transgrid by April 2024, with release of up to 150MW of power transfer capability by July 2024 – subject to successful testing.

Release of the full transfer capability of up to 800MW is planned for mid-2026, following Stage 2 construction completion in NSW by Transgrid, subject to Stage 2 internetwork testing. “To deliver the South Australian component, about 15,000m 3 of concrete was poured, 2,500km of new conductor, 10,000t of transmission tower steel and 1,500t of reinforced steel was used,” Mr Emms said.

“The South Australian workforce had a peak of about 250 people and it’s anticipated the project will create 250 ongoing jobs in the state. “Around 600,000 hours of labour was completed to successfully deliver the project, which was a huge effort.”

The Bundey substation

The new Bundey substation constructed in the Riverland as part of the project is also home to South Australia’s largest electricity transformers. The transformers play a critical role in enabling the flow of power across the new energy highway between South Australia and New South Wales, with each one weighing more than 250t when in operation.

Some of the other key features of the South Australian component of the interconnector includes the Special Protection Scheme, a small environmental footprint and higher towers to minimise vegetation cutting. Providing local content opportunities was an important objective with more than $45 million in contracts awarded to South Australian-based businesses.

“We had a large amount of services provided and work completed by South Australian and Riverland-based businesses during the project including concrete, accommodation, logistics, fuel, and staff and equipment hire,” Mr Emms said. “This was a significant investment into the regional South Australian economy and it was great to see so many local businesses involved in delivering the project.”

Positive engagement with landholders forms a critical part of ElectraNet’s high voltage transmission projects and ongoing maintenance, with an understanding of landholder’s values and requirements critical in its planning and operations.

As part of Project EnergyConnect (PEC), ElectraNet has continuously engaged with landholders from the early works right through to construction completion. This has made the project a collaborative effort, setting the benchmark for large infrastructure projects that are advancing South Australia’s transition to clean energy.

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