Traditional land owners push ahead with 3 GW mega project in WA’s Pilbara


Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) has formed the Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation (YEC) with Philippines-listed renewable developer ACEN with a plan to develop, own and operate large-scale renewable energy projects on an area of Yindjibarndi country covering 13,000 square kilometres in Western Australia’s Pilbara.

YEC Chief Executive Officer Craig Ricato said the registration of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) for the Yindjibarndi Renewable Energy Project is the culmination of a two-year process with the final investment decision on the first stage of the proposed 3 GW project now expected in late 2024.

“Large projects like this take time and we’re making good progress,” Ricato said.

“There’s been lots of work happening around heritage, environment and planning approvals, but most importantly, we’ve been engaging with the Yindjibarndi community so that they know and understand what we are doing and are kept informed of our progress.”

Ricato said the YEC’s plans include an initial target of 750 MW of solar and battery energy storage to be in construction within the next few years. A second stage will target a further 2 GW to 3 GW of wind, solar, and battery storage.

“We’re staging our developments so that we can develop in a considered and respectful way,” he said.

As part of the deal with ACEN, the Yindjibarndi people will get equity participation of 25% to 50% in all projects and have approval rights for site selection. Yindjibarndi-owned businesses will also be given preferred contractor status.

YAC Chief Executive Michael Woodley said the ILUA places Yindjibarndi people as leaders in driving the Pilbara region’s transition to clean energy.

“The partnership with ACEN gives Yindjibarndi control over how our country is developed, rather than other companies,” he said, noting that the money made from selling renewable energy will go directly back to Yindjibarndi people.

The Yindjibarndi land being scouted for the renewable energy project is centred around the Millstream area where many of the region’s iron ore mines are located while existing transmission lines owned by mining giant Rio Tinto stretch across the western edge of the parcel.

ACEN Australia Managing Director David Pollington said the company is already in discussions with companies regarding potential energy supply deals.

“The Pilbara region is home to large industrial energy users that are looking to decarbonise production and the team have been having many encouraging discussions with potential off take customers to purchase YEC renewable energy,” he said.

ACEN’s Australian portfolio already exceeds more than 1 GW capacity of large-scale renewable energy generation under construction and in operation, with an additional 8 GW of solar, wind, battery, and pumped hydro projects in the development pipeline.

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