Large-scale intercontinental renewable energy hub: a vision of the future?
Can Australia develop a complex system on a scale never seen before that has the ability to export renewable energy to much needed markets in Asia? That’s the vision that that Alex Hewitt of CWP Renewables certainly hopes will materialise. “The Asian Renewables Energy Hub is large, it’s audacious, it will reset the bar and the future. Are we mad?” Hewitt said to an enthralled audience at this week’s Smart Energy conference.
The proposed project to harness Western Australia’s abundant wind and solar resources and export the renewable energy via subsea power cables to Indonesia includes 4 GW of wind and 2 GW of solar generation along with two subsea power cables from Australia to Jakarta and Singapore. It would export more than 15 TWh of electricity every year, and comes with a design life of 60 years.
For these reasons the Asian Renewable Energy Hub is described as “one of the most exciting energy projects in the world, with the potential to solve several key energy and sustainable development challenges facing Indonesia, while creating significant new manufacturing opportunities”.
The scope of the works may sound ambitious but with booming demand for energy in Asia, coupled with Australia’s rich natural and renewable resources, and a consortium intent on driving the plan forward the plan has a backbone, and has been costed at around $20 billion.
Some would call it purely aspirational, others a pipe dream, but numbers have been crunched, suitable land located – all 14,000 square kilometres – and discussions with Indonesia have been underway for more than three years, said project driver Alex Hewitt of CWP Renewables, declaring the Hub “A vision of 2020 and beyond”.
The inland site stretching across the East Pilbara region in Western Australia sits clear of cyclone-prone activity and north of WA’s mining region so there are no mining leases to navigate, Hewitt explained. The site would house 78 square kilometres of solar panels (a site unfathomable to most) and the cable route and partners are on board.
Significantly, the world class solar and wind resources are described as “perfectly complementary, with lots of sun during the daytime and high wind speeds in the morning, evening and night, which enables competitively priced predictable and firm renewable electricity output, 365 days a year”.
Despite the vast distance covered, energy losses in the pipeline from Australia to Jakarta would stand at around 6 per cent.
Seen in the slide above, the energy generated by the Asian Renewable Energy Hub would be the cheapest in the world.
The forward thinking consortium includes InterContinental Energy, the privately owned company focused on developing large-scale intercontinental renewable energy hubs, which says the Asian Renewable Energy Hub is its most advanced project.
For its part, CWP has more than two decades of renewable energy development experience worldwide, and has created over 2000 MW of renewable energy generation capacity across seven countries. Within Australia in the last four years CWP has developed and financed more wind generation in Australia than any other renewable energy IPP.
Project partner Vestas boasts 87 GW of wind turbines installed in 76 countries, and its 22,000+ employees have created more wind power than any other company.
Also involved is Prysmian, global manufacturer of cables and the world’s largest supplier of subsea power cables. The company is making possible the Asian Renewable Energy Hub project by its recent advances in subsea High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cable transmission technology that can transmit over 1.5 GW of power, with less than 6 per cent losses over 2,000 km cable lengths. The Asian Renewable Energy Hub will use two such cables, for a total transmission capacity of over 3 GW.
Singapore based Swire Pacific Offshore is the major global offshore contracting and installation company also playing a role.
Research partner for the Asian Renewable Energy Hub project is ANU’s Energy Change Institute.