Renewables alternative option for Narrabri

Dominica Sanda

Twelve per cent of NSW's electricity demand could be supplied by solar and wind farms in northwest NSW by 2030, a new report has found.

The report, by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, developed two different renewable energy scenarios to provide an alternative energy solution to Santos's proposed coal seam gas project in Narrabri.

Commissioned by anti-coal group Lock the Gate, the report's first scenario examined turning Narrabri into an energy powerhouse with 38 square kilometres of land dedicated to solar and 120 square kilometres for wind farms.

They'd potentially generate 3800 megawatts of solar power and 600 megawatts of wind power by 2030.

The land needed for this "ambitious scenario", while extensive, is only 17 per cent of the area of the proposed Santos gas field, according to the Tuesday's report.

The energy generated could - with additional power transmission capacity - supply 12 per cent of NSW's electricity demand by 2030, report author Dr Sven Teske told AAP.

Under the second, more conservative scenario, 41 square kilometres of land would be used in Narrabri for solar and wind farms.

This alternative proposal could generate 622 megawatts of solar and 175 megawatts of wind power by 2030, making up 2.1 per cent of NSW's electricity supply.

"The advantage with solar and wind is that you won't run out of wind while gas will be depleted after some years," Dr Teske said.

The report suggests the renewable energy proposals would create more jobs than Santos's coal seam gas scheme.

The more ambitious scenario - costing $6.5 billion - would create up to 3600 jobs during the construction phase with more than 2500 ongoing operation and maintenance jobs for local workers.

The smaller project - estimated to cost $1 billion - would create 500 construction jobs and between 200 and 500 operation and maintenance jobs by 2030.

Dr Teske argues solar and wind farms are also cheaper than other non-renewable energies to develop - with solar costing about 70 per cent less than gas.

Santos expects its 950-square kilometre gas field will create about 1300 jobs during the initial construction phase and 200 ongoing jobs.

The oil and gas giant says the project has the potential to supply up to 200 terajoules of natural gas per day - which could meet up to half of NSW's natural gas demand.

The Narrabri gas project, which involves 850 new gas wells developed progressively over 20 years, is being assessed by the NSW Department of Planning.