PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Resources projects in the Pilbara are one step closer to a new power supply after the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) approved the development of a large-scale wind and solar renewable energy project, subject to a number of conditions.
The Asian Renewable Energy Hub will comprise a series of onshore wind turbines and solar panels situated some 220 km from Port Hedland, and will have a transmission cable corridor to the coast and subsea cables to the edge of state waters.
The hub will generate up to 15 000 MW of renewable energy in Western Australia. Up to 3 000 MW will be dedicated to large energy users in the Pilbara region, which could include new and expanded mines and downstream mineral processing. The bulk of the power will enable large-scale production of green hydrogen products for domestic and export markets.
The project is expected to cost some A$22-billion and is the largest proposed hybrid renewable energy project in the world.
“The EPA has completed its assessment of NW Interconnected Power Pty Ltd’s proposal to construct and operate a large-scale renewable energy project with an expected operational lifespan of 50 years,” said EPA chairperson Dr Tom Hatton.
“One of the key environmental issues the EPA considered was the proposed clearing of 11 962 ha of native vegetation, and its potential impact on fauna habitat, flora and vegetation. The EPA also considered the potential impact from the construction and operation of four subsea cables on benthic communities and habitat, marine environmental quality and marine fauna.
“Fire management was also considered a key issue, with a staged fire management strategy proposed to monitor the potential impacts and benefits of a landscape-scale prescribed burns program.”
The wind turbines are 26 km away from Eighty Mile Beach and 13 km from Mandora Marsh. Given the large distances from these important Ramsar wetlands, the EPA considers any potential impacts to migratory birds are manageable.
The EPA recommended that the proposal be implemented, subject to conditions including consultation on management plans with relevant stakeholders, including traditional land owners.
The EPA’s report on the Asian Renewable Energy Hub to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing May 18, after which the Minister of Environment will make a final decision.