In January 2022, Australian fossil fuels giant Woodside Energy revealed plans to build a 500 MW solar facility and 400 MWh battery energy storage system near Karratha, in Western Australia’s northwest, to help power its Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility. This week, the oil and gas major announced it has secured an agreement with the Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) for land on which to build the first 50 MW solar project and associated battery system.
Woodside said it has entered into a bilateral Indigenous Land Use Agreement and a modern benefits-sharing and relationship agreement with the NAC. The agreement relates to lands being investigated for the proposed Woodside Power Project to be built at Maitland, about 15 kilometres southwest of Karratha.
The initial project comprises a 50 MW solar energy plant complemented by a battery energy storage system but Woodside said there is potential to expand the power opportunity to a maximum of 500 MW if customer demand warrants it.
The project will supply renewable energy to industrial customers in the region, including its own Pluto LNG export facility.
All transmission of power from the solar facility is to be delivered via the Horizon Power-operated section of the North West Interconnected System (NWIS) to its customers.
Woodside said it has progressed environmental studies for the project and submitted a referral to the Environmental Protection Authority in Nov. 2021. The company said it is continuing to work with preferred developers, Pacific Energy Group and Horizon Power, on development of the solar generation, battery energy storage system and transmission infrastructure required for the project.
Woodside Chief Executive Meg O’Neill said the agreement with the NAC will allow the project to progress.
“We have been engaging with NAC regarding the power opportunity since 2019 and the agreements are a significant milestone to celebrate together,” she said. “We look forward to continuing to work with NAC and Ngarluma people as we progress the power opportunity.”
The agreements set out a framework for the delivery of social and economic benefits to NAC and Ngarluma people in connection with the power opportunity, and outline how Woodside and NAC will work together to develop the power opportunity, including the management of cultural heritage.
The deal comes on the back of Woodside’s successful proposal to deliver a 600 MW green hydrogen megaproject in New Zealand.
Woodside is certainly not alone when it comes to solar uptake in the Pilbara after Rio Tinto announced plans to invest $600 million (USD 402 million) in the construction of two new solar farms and battery energy storage systems as part of its efforts to decarbonise.
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