WA opens potentially 1.5 GW renewable hydrogen hub to global expressions of interest


Western Australia (WA) has not been muted about its green hydrogen ambitions. Indeed, as part of the state’s Recovery Plan the WA Government brought forward its Renewable Hydrogen Strategy targets a decade (from 2040 to 2030) and topped up its green hydrogen fund. At the heart of these ambitions is the Oakajee Strategic Industrial Area (Okajee SIA), a greenfields site WA is actively looking to transform into a renewable hydrogen industrial precinct. 

This week, the McGowan Government invited Expressions of Interest (EOI) into the Okajee SIA from the private sector. The goal is to produce a multi-faceted production of renewable hydrogen for Australian domestic use as well as an export industry. 

Located 435km 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 and 8.75 m/s with a capacity factor up to 50%, and a global horizontal irradiation of 2,000 – 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. 

Energy Storage

The McGowan government wants to firm these renewable resources with gas (the WA Government estimates a levelised cost of electricity below 0.10/kWh), using the pre-existing infrastructure of the Dampier-Bunbury Gas Pipeline. However, one would hope 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 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 – enough renewable energy for the WA Government to already be considering future renewable hydrogen developments in and around the Oakajee SIA. 

According to the Advisian Worley Group, which completed an initial assessment of Oakajee SIA’s renewable energy development potential this month, battery energy storage “may also be considered viable as the levelised cost of storage of batteries has been falling, and is projected to decrease further with technological advancements.” 

A potential 1.5 GW green hydrogen hub 

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 more than just enormous potential, it has significant support. 

WA’s Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that the frameworks to make WA 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, and the Oakajee SIA could truly transform the Mid-West region.” 

By working collaboratively with industry through the EOI process, continued MacTiernan, the Government is looking to “understand exactly what it will take to transform the area into a globally competitive producer and user of renewable hydrogen.” 

Of course, the Oakajee SIA is not the first large-scale hub to be proposed for WA’s Mid West. Among other proposals, German giant Siemens set its sight on a 5 GW green hydrogen project in the region in late 2019. However, now that the WA Government has nailed its colours 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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