The Western Australian government is talking to developers around the world about building a 1.5 GW wind and solar hydrogen hub at the Okajee Strategic Industrial Area. The state’s Mid West region has some of the world’s best solar and wind resources and they could drive the development of a local green hydrogen economy.
Western Australia has not been muted about its green hydrogen ambitions. Indeed, as part of the state’s Recovery Plan, the government proposed its Renewable Hydrogen Strategy and topped up its green hydrogen fund. At the heart of these ambitions is the Oakajee Strategic Industrial Area (Okajee SIA), a greenfields site that the state is actively trying to transform into a renewable hydrogen industrial hub.
This week, the state government invited expressions of interest (EOI) into the Okajee SIA from the private sector. The goal is to enable multifaceted production of renewable hydrogen for Australian domestic use, while also creating an export industry.
Located 435 km north of Perth, the Okajee SIA sits on the traditional lands of several indigenous groups, including the Amangu, the Mullew Wadjari, and the Naaguja (each of which have registered native title applications). The area has enormous diurnal resources of potential solar and wind, as well as an industrial and export facility. According to the World Bank Group, Oakajee SIA is situated in a region with wind speeds between 7.50 meters per second and 8.75 m/s, with a capacity factor of up to 50%, and a global horizontal irradiation of 2,000 kWh/m2 to 2,200 kWh/m2. These resources mean that Oakajee SIA has the potential for 270 MW of wind generation and/or 1,250 MW of solar.
The state government wants to firm these renewable resources with gas, by using the pre-existing infrastructure of the Dampier-Bunbury Gas Pipeline. However, one would hope that expressions of interest from the energy storage sector would be considered, especially considering the success of the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia.
The Hornsdale Power Reserve has also demonstrated its ability to grow after Neoen completed a 50% expansion earlier this month. This is an important feature of large-scale energy storage, especially considering that the entire Mid West region in which the Oakajee SIA is located is replete with millions of hectares of land suitable for wind and solar infrastructure. The region potentially offers enough renewable energy for the state government to consider future renewable hydrogen developments in and around the Oakajee SIA.
With the deadline or submissions of expressions of interest set to close on December 24, 2020, we still have some time to wait until we will gain a better idea of what this green hydrogen hub will look like. What we do know is this: The Okajee has significant support.
Western Australia Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that the frameworks to make the state a world leader across the hydrogen supply chain are already being set, and now is the time to build up from those frames.
“Renewable hydrogen has the potential to be a major economic driver for the state,” said MacTiernan.
Of course, the Oakajee SIA is not the first large-scale hub to be proposed for Western Australia’s Mid West region. Among other proposals, Siemens set its sight on a 5 GW green hydrogen project in the region in late 2019. However, now that the state government has nailed its colors to the mast of the wind turbine and raised its sails of solar panels, the progress toward large-scale renewable hydrogen projects in the state is looking far more certain.
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