Pilbara renewables hub adds 3GW wind and solar to $20bn plan

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Plans for huge renewable energy hub in Pilbara expanded to 9GW of wind and solar, producing as much as planned by Australia’s renewable energy target. Hydrogen storage has also been added to the $20 billion project menu.

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The consortium behind an ambitious plan to create an Asian Renewable Energy Hub in the Pilbara region of Western Australia have unveiled plans to add another 3GW of wind and solar to the project to help meet domestic as well as international needs.

The mooted addition will take the potential cost of the project –which envisages exporting cheap wind and solar to Asian customers via subsea cables – to around $20 billion.

The addition of the 3GW of wind and solar will take total generation capacity to around 9GW – with the added capacity targeted at large energy users in the Pilbara, who currently depend on expensive gas and diesel supplies.

The scale of the project is phenomenal. That amount of capacity will generate around 33TWh of wind and solar a year – exactly the amount of wind and solar that is targeted for the whole country by 2020 under the federal renewable energy target.

It would also be the biggest wind-solar hybrid project in the world, could include battery storage, and would likely provide jobs for 3,000 people in the construction phase and 400 people over the long-term operations.

The AREH consortium – which includes global wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, Australia’s CWP Renewables, and Intercontinental Energy – says the extra capacity will allow mine expansions, and the addition of upscale value-added processing.

The 9GW of generation capacity will likely comprise around 6GW of wind generation and 3GW of solar PV generation, and could also include hydrogen storage facilities for domestic use and export.

The Pilbara is generally known for its excellent solar resources, but CWP says it has also found a major wind resource in the area, and the shift to even larger turbines has dramatically increased its assumed potential.

There is a relatively consistent wind speed of  8.2 metres per second. Transmission losses to Asia are estimated to be about 9 per cent over 3,000km.

Andrew Dickson, from CWP says the consortium found the site –between Broome and Port Hedland – after a 12 month search. “We had a hunch there was good wind. The more we look at it, the more the economics improve,” he told RenewEconomy.

Dickson said the project could almost be seen in two components: the export side depending on contracts overseas; but the domestic component could potentially be a stand-alone project, or a precursor, given the cost advantage of renewables over gas.

That idea has been embraced by the Pilbara Development Commission, whose chairman Brendan Hammond said the addition of a domestic energy component meant that local business could capitalise on the Pilbara’s natural wind and solar assets.

“It is an exciting opportunity to boost the business competitiveness of the Pilbara by significantly lowering the cost of energy,” Hammond said in a statement.

“Such an outcome will result in the extension of existing mineral and oil/gas reserves, bring new opportunities into play, and allow a diversified downstream economy that is ultimately independent of natural resource exploitation to be built both regionally and state-wide.”

This is the same thinking that saw Korean-owned Sun Metals build a 124MW solar farm to lower costs for its zinc refinery in north Queensland, and underpin a $300 million expansion.

And it is also why UK “green steel” billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has turned to solar and storage to underpin the future of the Australian steel business, including a solar deal to help power his Victoria steel mill.

AREH Project Director Alex Tancock said increases in wind turbine size and capacity had led to the decision to add the extra capacity.

“The large scale of our project, together with excellent and complementary wind and solar resources, will allow us to generate clean electricity very cost competitively, day and night.

The consortium says the project, ambitious as it is, is gathering momentum with the completion of onshore site ecology surveys, the completion of the nearshore seabed surveys for the subsea cable, and the lodgement of referrals to the WA and Commonwealth governments.

It has also opened a consortium office in Jakarta, and expects to submit its Environmental Impact Assessment to the WA state government in mid-2018.

It says financial close for the project is anticipated in 2020/21, and the construction is anticipated to commence in 2023.

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67 Comments
  1. RobertO 7 months ago

    Hi All, Remember the efficiency loss are the first thing the “board” will have discussed. Never mind the profit, that comes later. I hope it make the owners a large profit.

    • john 7 months ago

      Expected losses from the Article.
      Transmission losses to Asia are estimated to be about 9 per cent over 3,000km.
      9% losses so one would expect a company who are going to spend $20 billion dollars would be across this.

      • RobertO 7 months ago

        Hi John, Tongue in cheek answer for the efficiency expert that think that efficiency drive companies (even if it’s 100% and make no profit, it must proceed or that something that is 0.5% efficient and make a profit will not make it)..

      • Geoff James 7 months ago

        Note that the average transmission and distribution losses across the eastern electricity network are also around 10%. This is a reasonable figure for an electricity project. Should check whether it includes power conversion at each end of the link.

  2. Rod 7 months ago

    There is $5 Billion in NAIF funding sitting there waiting. Although I think we will need to exorcise the COALition to free it up for renewables.

    • mick 7 months ago

      mate its a slush fund to life support canavans wet dreams,super funds on the other hand-

      • Rod 7 months ago

        Hopefully Canavan and Gina won’t get their grubby hands on it before the election and Labor can sack the stacked board.

        • mick 7 months ago

          i phoned them a while ago about class actions

        • rob 7 months ago

          When you say stacked are you referring to our GINA?

          • Rod 7 months ago

            No, she’s not on the board but I looked them up once and all COALition appointees making megabucks and only one project AFAIK so far. Dredging a port for fossil tankers!

          • rob 7 months ago

            Soz again rod……I was attempting to be humorous re the size of our Gina…. Obviously I am not having a good mental health day!

    • Joe 7 months ago

      This NAIF $5 billions money pot has me buggered. The money is just sitting there. What is Matteo COALavan planning, what is he waiting for. I wonder if something BIG is going to be announced in the upcoming Fed. Budget.

      • JonathanMaddox 7 months ago

        It’s “just sitting there” like a pre-approved mortgage is sitting there until you decide what house to buy. Unspent government funds may as well not have been allocated at all, for all the economic effect they have.

        • john 7 months ago

          This money should never be spend on a new coal generator.
          That would be a decision that would bring a class action and well deserved.

      • rob 7 months ago

        “buggered” in its literal sense is all the LNP want, perhaps even desire! Particularly Matteo…..the “italian stallion”

    • john 7 months ago

      This will not be used for a private exercise and it should not, the present government wishes to build a loss making Coal Generator.

    • rob 7 months ago

      love the “exorcise”…..well done S.A Rod

    • rob 7 months ago

      Trouble is they would probably enjoy it?

  3. juxx0r 7 months ago

    Could also use renewable energy to make ice, sell to Eskimos.

    Would require a Northern Friends Infrastructure Fund. But if you took retardo funding away from this one it wouldn’t exist either.

    • rob 7 months ago

      TROLLI or you don’t understand the English language

      • juxx0r 7 months ago

        By the time this gets going wind and solar wont be far off $0.02c/kWh, why then would anyone pay to transport it a couple of thousand kilometres instead of making it themselves? Grants?

        • stucrmnx120fshwf 7 months ago

          Land values in Indonesia, taking rich agricultural land out of food production, not a good idea, in a country of 200 million people, with 10% of the land surface area. The weather is more than 10% better, in the Pilbara, Australia is politically stable, financially stable, geologically stable. We get our power from overseas, from the mainland here in Tasmania, and we only have 1/400 th, of the population of Indonesia.

          • juxx0r 7 months ago

            If the rest of the country stopped subsidising Tas could you still afford to import power or would you make your own?

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 7 months ago

            In fact you get our peak hour power at off peak rates, so we’re leaving the national grid pricing and charging you full peak hour pricing, in the future, we’ll be acting as a national renewable energy battery and we’ve decided to charge you full price from now on. Hydroelectric power, is great pumped energy storage available when there’s no sun, or wind, when the cable broke, we went without mainland power, but diesel power, was more expensive. We almost didn’t have to use it though, then we resumed sales to the grid, at below peak hour price, expect your peak hour prices to go up, as we charge full prices, for our stored energy.

            Buying cheap day solar and wind and selling it to you, at peak hour prices, when you need it, will be profitable, now if only we could keep you from buying houses cheap. With our nations best NBN, better climate, due to climate change, higher employment, we cannot stop you kicking us out, of our houses and causing homelessness, please stay away. Last year, you spent twice as much time in Airbnb, the number of tourists have increased 33% in the last 2 years, stop buying our housing, stay away.

          • RobertO 7 months ago

            Hi stucrmnx120fshwf, And Australia is likely to attach another cable to help stop the island floating away in the next few years (you have got to stop drifting off).

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 7 months ago

            If only we could, form an alliance with NZ, close the door behind me, after I arrived 2 years ago, drift away, free from the invasion.

  4. Lindsay 7 months ago

    They quite often get cyclones in that area. Has any consideration been given to that aspect

  5. John Mitchell 7 months ago

    This just shows what you can do with a progressive vision of the world. But what do we have as a Govt?

    • john 7 months ago

      This has been looked at for the last 5 years.

  6. Radbug 7 months ago

    And how eager is the Government of Singapore to the idea of having so much of its electricity supply contingent upon the good offices of the Government of Indonesia?

    • john 7 months ago

      It will be controlled by the producer not the receiver.

      • George Darroch 7 months ago

        You say that, but if you run your hose over my driveway in order to water my neighbour’s tomatoes, then I’ll have some control over what happens.

        • Radbug 7 months ago

          When Trump & Kim sign the peace treaty, Russian State Rail & Gazprom will build rail/gas connections into the ROK, like before the ink is dry on the document. Australia sends 11% of its thermal coal exports & 39% of its LNG to the ROK. Gazprom will grab the lot. Trump really wants his Nobel Prize, and we are his ambassadorial doormat. We shall need this Indonesian/Singapore electricity deal, like real badly!!!

    • George Darroch 7 months ago

      Not very.

      The backers of this project should be aware of the recent upsurge in resource nationalism in Indonesia, and how this might impact on the project. There’s the potential for unexpected charges or taxes which could impact the long term economics. Singapore won’t like having their electricity pipe going through a country that has shown mixed temperament towards all its neighbours, but it’s hard to see them turning it off completely outside of actual conflict, in which case the waters Singapore depends on for other imports (including energy) would be closed as well.

      • Brunel 7 months ago

        This reminds me of the proposed Iran Pakistan India pipeline.

        Iran should sell gas to Pakistan and Pakistan should on sell it to India. If a segment of the pipe in Pakistan gets destroyed, PAK stops getting money from India. So it is is PAK’s interest to keep the pipe in a good condition.

        • itdoesntaddup 6 months ago

          That project was first proposed many decades ago. I think I first came across it in the early 1980s, and the idea pre-dates that. It’s like fusion – perennially awaited.

      • Radbug 7 months ago

        I foresee 55% of equity in the cable purchased by Indonesia, 20% by Singapore & 25% by Australia. Thus the Indonesians control the cable. If geopolitics intervenes, the Pilbara solar energy can always be converted to solar methanol and tankered … everywhere, including Singapore.

    • Brunel 7 months ago

      Singapore imports drinking water from Malaysia – I suppose Singapore could import electricity from Indonesia and have a gas power station on standby.

      Hong Kong probably imports electricity.

  7. phillyc 7 months ago

    There is 30deg of latitude difference between the Pilbara and Sydney. Which is 2hrs of sunlight difference. Wonder if they’ve considered export to the Eastern states of Australia? Could be generating a solid amount of solar into the Eastern afternoon shoulder / peak. Love the idea of export to Asia BTW. If it can also facilitate downstream processing in the Pilbara that is great too.

    • john 7 months ago

      Problem no large scale transmission lines between the Pilbara and the Eastern sea board so that is not going to happen.

      • JonathanMaddox 7 months ago

        None at all. Also none to Jakarta. This is a *big* project, the transmission infrastructure being a very large part of the cost. I’m almost astonished they consider it cost-effective today; but it’s wonderful that someone does.

        • john 7 months ago

          Just remember this is one of 2 projects that have looked at this idea.
          Indonesia has most of its country on the Equator were there is very little wind and not exactly brilliant solar due to cloud cover.
          With 9% lets say 10% loss of transmission from an area that has large Wind and Solar resources it would appear using large scale development this will be financially viable.

          • JonathanMaddox 7 months ago

            It’s certainly true that the Pilbara solar and wind resource is quite a bit better than that of Java itself, though I think the issues of calm and cloud cover can be exaggerated. Also land is very much cheaper. This may be enough.

          • RobertO 7 months ago

            Hi All, and maybe somebody is also thinking about an undersea cable to SA (not covered by AEMC access rules or AEMO loss drivers) after they get the first cable up and running (sometime in 2030 or so)

          • Alastair Leith 7 months ago

            Its not just the 9-10% losses, its the CAPEX.

        • stucrmnx120fshwf 7 months ago

          Cost effective 2021, when construction is completed, then 2023, when solar power, will be half the price per kWh, that it is now, by 2028, 1/4 the price per kilowatt hour, that it is now, making hydrogen shipping viable. Doesn’t have to be 100% efficiency, at the price it will be in 2028, it could have 60% losses and still be highly profitable.

    • David Mitchell 7 months ago

      I foresee that solar (and wind) farms will be connected to transmission lines that will run directly west from large population centers on the east cost like Brisbane & Sydney. The evening peak will be pushed further back as the transmission lines extend and more PV connected further west.

      • My_Oath 7 months ago

        Solar and wind resources within NSW makes more sense. Huge $ to connect the Pilbara with the National Grid. They are using an undersea HVDC cable for Asia. To connect it to the Grid would mean an even longer cable.

        • ben 7 months ago

          Wouldn’t use a cable, but HVDC overhead lines. Cheaper but still expensive. China just built a 12GW HVDC to move electricity from the East to the west.

          • JonathanMaddox 7 months ago

            Other way actually: western coal, wind and solar power sent to eastern population centres.

          • Alastair Leith 7 months ago

            China, slightly higher demand though, right?

      • Alexander Hromas 7 months ago

        have a look at the Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) web site for stationary power it includes concentrated solar as well as wind and PV with a HVDC interlink between the eastern and western power systems

    • Tommyk82 . 7 months ago

      With the (relatively) large transmission losses more than negating the superior solar resource, it wouldn’t be better than just building solar in NSW for Sydney where the resource is still excellent. Selling to parts of Asia which are short on space and capital is the right move. The other issue is you might be hard pressed to convince WA and the NT to join the NEM

  8. john 7 months ago

    I look at the figures $20 billion dollars.
    This a huge amount of money.
    The outcomes has to be so compelling for this consortium to put up that figure of money because they know the outcomes are such a low cost of production of energy that it will work.
    It would not surprise me if this works out as a 25% profit on a lower than present cost of power.

  9. Ian 7 months ago

    A global grid seems inevitable – projecting into the future. Probably the sooner the better, as it will give access to countries less well-endowed to the vast RE sources in Australia, (A renewable energy superpower of the future:)

  10. john 7 months ago

    Yes I have seen those projections the North of Egypt as a Solar producer.
    However where is the wind going to come from to augment it as well where do you put the PHES for that excess power?

    • My_Oath 7 months ago

      The wind comes from the ocean – its called a ‘sea breeze’. We do have wind in Western Australia.

    • stucrmnx120fshwf 7 months ago

      Use sea water, in the Hamersley ranges nearby, are far more untapped, than the East coast catchment.

    • RobertO 7 months ago

      Hi John, Try to think, in Australia, would you put lots of solar in Tasmania and lots of Wind farms in Qld. Why would these guys supply locally? (What a waste!) And then they plan a H2 setup as well?
      Europe is building lots of interconnects that will allow solar from the south and wind from the north to be used (local first then transmitted as support for when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine. Storage in all forms is being added and longer term coal will depart. Even H2 has it’s part to play in this long term transition to RE (some Countries will do better and/or quicker than others but all will go (including Nuclear power as it’s already too expensive, look up Westinghouse and what they have lost) Energy used locally first, then transmitted due to losses (unless the profit covers the losses in another Country). It quite possible that H2 will use electricity when other usages are not available, but some companies may choose H2 over other types of storage. Profit will drive decisions not efficiency of processes.

      • David Osmond 7 months ago

        Agree that it’s not always best to source locally. But we are actually building lots of wind in QLD, as there are actually quite a lot of good windy sites there. See Mt Emerald, Coopers Gap, Kennedy, Lakeland, Windy Hill and Forsyth wind farms just for starters.

      • David Osmond 7 months ago

        And solar in Tassie is not that silly either when you consider that it gets very long days in summer when rainfall is lower affecting its hydro system.

  11. john 7 months ago

    As I said before.
    a $20,000,000,000 exercise you do not do without doing due diligence.
    The company has done the figures RE will deliver the cost advantage to them.
    The buyers of this power will be better off.

    • Brunel 7 months ago

      The trouble is disasters such as Masters Hardware and Tata Nano show that due diligence is not always done.

  12. ray johnson 7 months ago

    well if they have to do an environmental impact report to the W.A. state government the question that needs to be ask is, we have BYD in china making electric buses and tesla doing semi’s can it be mandated in the assessments that no extra diesel is to be added to the region to accommodate the construction of the site being they are a renewable hub they should be able to power the vehicles with their own generated power

    • Alastair Leith 7 months ago

      This WA govt still doesnt even have a comprehensive suite of Climate policies.

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