In May 2021, oil and gas giant Woodside Energy revealed plans to build a utility-scale solar PV facility near Karratha in Western Australia’s north west to help power its Pluto LNG export facility. In documents published by Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority (WAEPA) this week, it can be confirmed that Woodside is proposing to build a 500MW (AC) solar PV facility including battery energy storage infrastructure capable of storing up to 400MWh.
“Woodside Energy (Woodside) proposes to construct and operate the Woodside Solar Facility in the Maitland Strategic Industrial Area, located approximately 15 kilometres south-west of Karratha, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia”, says the proposal.
The facility would cover approximately 975.6 hectares within a development envelope of 1100.3 hectares on crown owned land and that of the Traditional Owners, the Ngarluma People. According to the proposal the Solar Facility will see the installation of approximately one million solar panels along with supporting infrastructure including battery energy storage system and electrical substation.
Woodside says all transmission of power from the Solar Facility to customers “Would be delivered via the North West Interconnected System (NWIS), through existing, upgraded, or new infrastructure constructed, owned and operated by Horizon Power for all users of the NWIS.”
Construction of the Solar Facility would progress in 100MW phases, each expected to take six to nine months. And while each constructed phase would result in CO2 emissions in the realm of 212kt, the resulting green energy in the NWIS “will reduce customer electricity emissions by approximately 100ktCO2e/annum.” Those customers being industrial customers.
Woodside says it is working closely with the Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) and has incorporated feedback into its updated proposal including sufficient commitments to ensure the protection of heritage features within the envelope area, ensuring heritage surveys prior to clearing operations, and ensuring at least 10% of all vegetation remains undisturbed, “including strands of old Acacia trees”.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Burrup Peninsula, or Murujuga, is home to more than one million images carved into rocks over a period of up to 50,000 years, and the area has been nominated for World Heritage listing due to worries that industrial pollutants may be damaging for the art.
Those industrial activities include Woodside’s North West Shelf and Pluto LNG plants, Yara’s ammonia and explosives plants, and the Dampier Port Rio Tinto uses to export its iron ore.
The WAEPA will now review the referral. The seven day public comment period opened on January 10, with Woodside hoping to commence construction this year.
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