Pilbara, Australia. 20 January 2018. Backed by a consortium of renewable energy companies and research institutes, a US$10billion plan has been tabled that could change the way a significant section of southeast Asia sources its power.
The Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) aims to generate 6,000 MW of renewable energy in Western Australia, and export it through undersea high voltage DC transmission cables to various places across Singapore and Indonesia.
Around 7,000 square km of desert in the Pilbara region has been located as the best site for a projected 6GW wind and solar hybrid power plant. The massive plant which could cover up to 7,000 sq. kilometres would provide 1200 300m-high Vestas wind turbines providing 4,000MW of power, and 2,400MW of solar photovoltaic panels.
The AREH consortium intends to manufacture the wind and solar generating equipment in Indonesia. It says the project will also boost jobs and expertise in large-scale renewable energy development – and just as importantly, transmission expertise – across Australia’s existing renewable energy sector. As well as equity partner Intercontinental Energy, the hub is backed by Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, and Australian wind farm operator CWP Energy Asia.
“Wind and solar energy, working together, have enormous potential to supply reliable and competitively priced renewable energy,” said Alexander Hewitt, MD of development partner CWP Energy Asia. “The Asia Renewable Energy Hub is a compelling proposition for Indonesia – not only for supplying the energy, but for the economic benefits that come with establishing … manufacturing facilities [there].“
The project has been in initial viability development for the last three years, with survey and permission-related help from the local Department of Lands and the traditional owners.
Additionally, experts from Australian National University’s Energy Change Institute (ECI) have worked on the AREH project, providing specialist expertise in Australia-specific energy generation and energy efficiency methods, energy economics, regulation, security, sociology and international project policy.
Alexander Tancock, MD of Intercontinental Energy, a participating partner in the consortium, said that the most important part of the project – identifying the most effective location for both generation and transmission – had been completed.
“We spent two years investigating the entire north-west coast of Australia, and found this incredible location,” he said. “It has consistent and reliable sun during the day and high wind speeds in the morning, evening and night.”
The governments of both Indonesia and Singapore have been consulted during the project run-up, and will be included in planning as the project develops. Technology partners Prysmian and Swire Pacific Offshore also assisted with feasibility studies in the cabling and installation logistics.
“We spent … years investigating the entire northwest coast of Australia, and found this incredible location,” said Tancock. “It has a unique geography and topography that gives it far higher wind and solar resources than the average. That’s why we can deliver such competitively priced power.”
AREH would use an 80km-long transmission line to carry the generated power to the northwest coast of Australia near Eighty Mile Beach, where it would be connected to two High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) undersea cables up to 2,000km long to Singapore and Indonesia. These would then use local distribution systems to supply power to the southeast Asian destinations. Each of the undersea cables would carry around 1.5GW of power, with less than 6% projected losses over the total distance.
“Given the increasing ability to move energy over long distances, AREH is a compelling proposition, not only for supplying the energy, but for the economic benefits that come with establishing [related] manufacturing facilities., “ said Hewitt.
The partners said that by 2025, the project could provide a reliable and cost-competitive electricity supply that would help to meet southeast Asia’s energy demand and renewable energy targets.
“In addition, AREH would help to address energy security challenges through long-term and stable pricing for electricity, as the wind and sun have no cost and no exposure to future carbon pricing,” it noted.
The consortium is targeting a final investment decision within the next two years, with fully operational completion by 2029. The partners say that the whole project could create 3000 construction jobs and 400 ongoing jobs once it is up and running. Clive Turton, President of Vestas Asia Pacific added that the project would “provide the foundation for a strong … renewable energy technology manufacturing hub, driving investment, job creation and a local value-added supply chain.”
“As renewable energy becomes cost-competitive with fossil fuels, it becomes more and more attractive both as source of electricity and as a source of jobs and investment,” he said.