Major Renewables Project in Australia inches closer to approval

Renewables projects in Australia are set to receive a boost when the Asian Renewable Energy Hub (Areh), delivers upto 15 gigawatts of solar and wind generation capacity is Australia’s most anticipated renewables project. It has progressed a step closer to reality after being recommended for approval by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) of the state of Western Australia, subject to conditions. , would supply the Pilbara region and develop a green hydrogen manufacturing hub for internal use and export to Asia.

The mega renewables project for Western Australia, which has been in the planning stages since 2014, was revealed in 2017 as a 6-gigawatt hybrid plant. Since then, the proposed facility’s generation capacity has been scaled up to 9, 11 and as of 2019, 15 GW. The original plan was for the project to export clean electricity to Jakarta and Singapore via subsea, high voltage DC cables, but the focus has shifted to domestic industrial users, with more than half the output from Areh allocated to the Pilbara region. Possible energy consumers include mines and mineral processing companies as well as the anticipated large scale production of green hydrogen.

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The proposed project would cover a vast on and offshore development envelope of 662,400ha some 220km east of Port Hedland. One of the issues the Environmental Protection Authority considered was the need to permanently clear 11,962 hectares of vegetation – 1.81% of the development envelope. The authority also looked into the potential impact of the construction and operation of the four subsea cables on benthic communities and habitat and marine environmental quality and fauna. The project site is home to numerous species including the threatened black-footed rock-wallaby and the bilby marsupial not forgetting bats, reptiles, scorpions and land snails. The EPA stated it considered all concerned species in making recommendations. A detailed plan was also drawn up related to the waters under which the subsea cables would pass, which host turtles, whales, dolphins and sawfish. The plan relates to using a hydro-plough or similar ‘low impact’ installation technique.

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