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EPA backs Woodside's solar plans

13th September 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

     

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended the approval of oil and gas major Woodside’s solar facility plans in the Pilbara’s Maitland Strategic Industrial Area (MSIA).

Woodside’s proposal will see the generation of electricity from a large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) farm, which will be developed in a phased approach. The farm will initially supply up to 100 MW of renewable energy to industrial customers, but could expand to 500 MW as customer demand increases.

The electricity will be distributed via the North-West Interconnected System and up to one-million solar panels and a battery energy storage system will be present on the farm.

EPA chairperson Professor Matthew Tonts said recommended conditions for the proposal, located 15 km southwest of Karratha, included measures to mitigate impacts to flora, fauna, foraging vegetation and Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Tonts said the geographical location meant the MSIA was so far relatively undisturbed.

“This means future proposals within the Maitland estate will need to consider how to address cumulative impacts to flora and vegetation, terrestrial fauna and other environmental factors and how these impacts will intersect with impacts to social surroundings, especially Aboriginal cultural heritage,” he said.

“The EPA proposes that a cumulative assessment is required to establish expectations for proponents planning projects in the MSIA.

“In addition, this EPA report recommends that land should be set aside within the MSIA specifically for the use and benefit of the Ngarluma People.”

The EPA also used the Woodside Solar Facility report to detail advice for future proponents of renewable energy projects.

Tonts said the EPA expected proponents to consider the level and amount of disturbance required to implement each renewable proposal, compared to the savings of greenhouse gas.

“The management of waste produced by future renewable energy projects will also be a key consideration in our assessment of these types of proposals,” he said.

“Proponents will need to consider waste management and recycling of solar panels and other associated renewable energy infrastructure as part of a circular waste economy.”

The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a three-week public appeal period, closing October 4. 

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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