The New Pilbara Economic Conference
The New Pilbara Economic Summit

Plans to be unveiled for renewable energy in the Pilbara

Posted on: Tuesday, 5 September 2017 at 11:00:16 AM

A visionary plan to replace the existing North West Interconnected System (NWIS) in the Pilbara with renewable energy generators including hydro electricity, solar and wind power will be unveiled at The New Pilbara Conference on August 29th at the Hyatt.

Dr Matthew Stocks, PhD and Research Fellow at the Australian National University, will present his paper on the Pilbara Renewable Energy Precinct at the event.

“Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are being deployed on a vastly larger scale than any other low emission technology because of their low and rapidly declining cost. The massive scale of the PV and wind industries confers large economies of scale that will be difficult for alternatives to compete with. In this project, we assume that renewable electricity from PV and wind will continue to dominate renewable energy deployment and production for the foreseeable future,” said Dr Stocks.

The Pilbara region of Western Australia has one of the best solar resources in the world as well as excellent wind resources and extensive opportunities for pumped hydroelectricity storage (PHES). The purpose of the project is to elucidate a visionary approach to both near and long term large-scale renewable energy opportunities in northern and western Australia,” he added.

The North West Interconnected System (NWIS) system spans an area of 150,000 kilometres and services the communities and mining centres of the Pilbara. Gas fired generators comprise most of the capacity. The value of gas on Asian markets, to which the Pilbara is linked via export, is A$8-12/GJ. At this price, a CCGT system will deliver electricity at a price of $80-110/MWh (assuming 50% efficiency, $1500/kW installed, 2% O&M, 5% real discount rate). Both wind and PV currently fall below this cost for a sunny and windy place like the Pilbara, and will fall well below this cost by the 2020’s. Large-scale substitution of PV and wind for gas is probable in the 2020s. 

Professor Andrew Blakers, a fellow research lead on the project said “Once the NWIS is powered by renewable electricity, the region is ideally suited to export of low carbon products.  This could include the reduction of iron ore to iron which would be a large value add to an already massive Australian industry.”

Dr Stocks’ presentation will also cover;

  • Interconnection of the NWIS and South West Interconnected System (SWIS) via high voltage DC(HVDC) cables to allow sharing of renewable electricity, with possible extension to the National Electricity Market (NEM)
  • Reduction of iron oxide to iron using renewable electricity in the Pilbara
  • Export of energy rich chemicals and materials produced using renewable electricity
  • Export of renewable electricity to Indonesia via HVDC cables

The four Pilbara Regional Chambers of Commerce and Industry will play host to an esteemed cast of leaders from business, government and industry at the 2017 Pilbara Economic Development Conference, dubbed ‘The New Pilbara 2’.

Presented by the Karratha, Port Hedland, Newman and Onslow Chambers of Commerce, and opened by the Minister for Regional Development, the Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC, the one day program on August 29th at the Hyatt Regency Perth will feature presentations on the economic state of the region and investment priority areas which will unlock potential.

For more information on the speakers or program at The New Pilbara 2017 conference.

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