WA green lights first solar project under streamlined approvals process

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The Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation (YEC), a partnership established by the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and Philippines-listed renewables developer ACEN Corporation, has received environmental approval for the first of several proposals totalling 3 GW of clean energy with the Western Australian (WA) government giving the green light for a 150 MW solar farm in the Pilbara region.

Although no specifics were disclosed about the 150 MW solar farm, the state government said it is the first project approved through its Green Energy Approvals Initiative that was introduced last year to fast track the development of a growing pipeline of renewable energy and green hydrogen and manufacturing projects in the state.

WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby said the cross-government initiative is aimed at driving investment in solar and wind projects, green hydrogen, lithium mining, critical minerals processing as well as manufacturing of renewable energy products such as batteries, electrolysers, solar panels and wind turbines.

“I want to see Western Australia become a renewable energy powerhouse, so it is critical we cut red tape and get clean energy projects online without unnecessary delays,” he said.

“Yindjibarndi’s proposals are exactly what our government wants to see more of in WA.”

“With the potential to decarbonise our state’s energy systems, create On Country jobs for Aboriginal Australians, and support renewable energy uptake by industry in the Pilbara, I look forward to seeing Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation’s proposals come to fruition.”

The 150 MW solar project is the first of the large-scale solar, wind, and battery storage projects YEC plans to develop on an area of Yindjibarndi country covering 13,000 square kilometres. YEC’s initial plans include a Stage 1 target of 750 MW of combined wind, solar, and battery storage with construction to commence within the next few years.

YEC is targeting major industrial energy users in the Pilbara with its developments and has already signed a memorandum of understanding with mining giant Rio Tinto that enables the two companies to explore wind, solar and battery energy storage systems on Yindjibarndi land that is close to Rio’s power lines.

The agreement is part of Rio’s $3 billion (USD 1.98 billion) plan to decarbonise its iron ore business in the Pilbara, which is currently powered by four gas-fired power stations. An estimated 700 MW of renewable capacity will be required to replace its gas supply.

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