800MWh battery and hydrogen hub could provide a ‘just transition’ to WA coal town

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Western Australia’s (WA) McGowan Government released a ‘Just Transition’ framework for the famous coal town of Collie back in 2020. Last week, WA’s Minister for Regional Development and Hydrogen Industry Alannah MacTiernan announced up to $1 million in funding for the first stage of a feasibility study into big battery and green hydrogen hub for the town. 

The study, to be conducted by Sunshot Energy, chaired by eminent energy economist Ross Garnaut, will assess the economic case for establishing a renewable hydrogen hub through the use of an electrolyser to produce green ammonia and urea for agricultural and industrial industries. 

It is being called the Collie Battery and Hydrogen Industrial Hub Project, the key feature of which would be a 600-800MWh battery storing renewable energy for the production of green hydrogen and its previously stated derivatives. To put that in perspective, a battery that size is four times bigger than the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia. 

The purpose of the ‘Just Transition’ framework for the famous coal town located 200km north of Perth in the heart of the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), which has been powering WA with its two coal mines since the 1880s, was to encourage investment in Collie from low emissions, technological and job-rich sectors. 

Collie - International Graphite headquarters
Collie has a population of 7000 and boasts a large old-fashioned letterbox and replica coal mine among its top attractions.
Image: International Graphite

Image: International Graphite

According to MacTiernan, if the Sunshot study can prove the Hub’s economic case, the project could create $730 million of new investment in green industries and decarbonisation initiatives, including 500 construction and 400 ongoing jobs for the region. 

“It makes sense for Collie, which is at the heart of the SWIS energy system, to become a renewable energy industrial hub as we transition away from the coal industry,” said MacTiernan. “This project will provide a firm basis to progress a renewable energy hub in Collie. 

Collie-Preston MLA Jodie Hanns seconded the notion, adding that the Hub “is another project that aligns with Collie’s Just Transition Plan and is a good next step to keep energy sector jobs in Collie.” 

“The renewable energy hub could also help to attract new industries to set up in Collie,” continued Hanns, “including processing of critical materials.” 

Last year Sunshot Industries announced the Barcaldine Renewable Energy Zone (BREZ), what it is calling “Australia’s first regional zero emission business development” located in central Queensland. And by the looks of it, there are a number of similarities with the Collie Battery and Hydrogen Industrial Hub Project. 

According to the company, “BREZ will pioneer sophisticated zero emissions production of hydrogen, ammonia and urea, processing of minerals and intensive horticulture.” 

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