World’s biggest wind and solar hydrogen hub planned for south-west Australia


(Renew Economy)

 

The world’s biggest renewable energy hub – comprising an astonishing 50 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity – has been proposed for the southern coast of Western Australia to create millions of tonnes of green hydrogen for use in Australia and for export.

The scale of the $100 billion project – to be known as the Western Green Energy Hub – is unprecedented. It would rank as one of Australia’s biggest ever projects of any kind, and not far short of the size of the country’s main grid.

The chief proponents are Australia’s CWP Global and Hong Kong-based Intercontinental Energy, the same parties behind the 26GW Asia Renewable Energy Hub in the Pilbara, which last month had initial environmental approvals rejected by federal environment minister Sussan Ley.

The Western Green Energy Hub would stretch over 15,000 square kilometres from near the South Australia border out west across the Nullabor towards the mining towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder and the coastal town of Esperance. It would would produce up to 3.5 million tonnes of green hydrogen or 20 million tonnes of green ammonia annually.

Mirning Green Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mirning Traditional Lands Aboriginal Corp, will have a “meaningful carried equity stake” in the project, and a permanent seat on the WGEH consortium board.

“The Western Green Energy Hub is historic on two fronts,” Brendan Hammond, the chairman of the  WGEH board, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“First, the scale at which we will be able to deliver green fuels to markets and customers around the world, helping to move us all towards a net-zero future.

“Second, and possibly more importantly, the way in which we are working with the Mirning People, the original owners of the land, to create a truly long-term and sustainable multi-generational partnership that delivers enormous socio-economic benefits for the community. It is an honour and a privilege to be involved in this groundbreaking project.”

 

“It’s a truly massive proposal,” said Western Australia’s hydrogen minister Alannah MacTiernan, who earlier this year announced her ambition to see 100GW of green hydrogen projects in the state as the world prepared for a big switch from fossil fuel gas to green hydrogen and ammonia.

See: Western Australia eyes massive 100GW of wind and solar for green hydrogen by 2030

“Right across WA we are seeing renewable hydrogen projects taking their next steps forward -0 from the Kimberley to Esperance,” MacTiernan said in a statement.

“Our State is perfectly positioned to lead the global renewable hydrogen industry, delivering a strong economic future for WA and becoming a major contributor to global decarbonisation.”

She said CWP and Intercontinental have secured a licence from the WA state government to complete site surveys that will be used to build a business case for the proposed site.

“Green fuels produced at the site will meet massive future demand from multiple sectors, including in co-firing in power generation, the shipping sector, heavy industry such as steel, chemicals and mining, as well as the aviation sector,” the consortium said in its statement.

The consortium said the area featured a strong wind resource, with average speed of 9 metres per second, and good solar, with around 2,000kWh per square metre of solar irradiation. That translated into an expected capacity factor of around 70 per cent. A final investment decision is expected in 2028.

CWP and Intercontinental expect the green hydrogen sector to become a $US2.5 trillion market by 2050. They intend to develop both this and the AREH project, as well as a huge project in Oman and more to come.

Already in Australia, there are multiple projects of multi-gigawatt scale proposed by a range of local and international companies, even though the biggest electrolyser deployed to date in Australia – at Tonsley in Adelaide – is a mere 1MW.

Australia, however, is in a race with other countries and continents. Multiple green hydrogen projects are being proposed in Europe and the US, and renewables-rich countries in the Middle East and central Asia have unveiled massive green hydrogen proposals.

In just the last few weeks, a 45GW proposal has been unveiled in Kazakhstan, while a 25GW proposal has been put forward for Oman, in which Intercontinental is also involved.

In Australia, iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest has unveiled his own “mega-plans” for more than 100GW of green hydrogen projects across the world, including 40GW in Australia, and is working on his first concrete proposals in Tasmania.

Also, in the Northern Territory, Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brookes are funding studies into the Sun Cable project which would involve a 14GW solar farm, a 30GWh battery, and a cable to export green electricity to Singapore and other Asian customers.

CWP and Intercontinental say they are attracted to the Pilbara and Nullabor regions for the richness of both solar and wind power, with much of the wind blowing in the evening.

Paul Lingard, the co-head of energy and infrastructure at legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright, said the “stunning” project would be single largest energy hub in the world.

“The potential to produce and export 3.5 million tons of zero carbon green hydrogen also helps confirm Australia’s key role in the global Energy Transition.

“This project will be the first of its kind to work with traditional owners (the Mirning people) not only in the recognition of native title rights and interests and protection of cultural heritage in the development of the project, but also through a meaningful carried equity stake and permanent project interest.

“This true partnering with First Nations Land Owners sets the tone for a new model of long-term and sustainable project development.”

 

 

Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of Renew Economy, and is also the founder of One Step Off The Grid and founder/editor of the EV-focused The Driven. Giles has been a journalist for 40 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.

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