Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended approval for the Asian Energy Hub project, a large-scale wind and solar project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, subject to conditions.
The proposal involves the construction of up to 1,743 wind turbines, solar panels, above and below-ground transmission cables and four subsea power cables, covering an onshore and offshore development envelope of 662,400 hectares.
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The wind turbines are 26 kilometres away from Eighty Mile Beach and 13 kilometres from Mandora Marsh, which posed concerns about potential impacts on migratory bird species in the area, but the EPA considers these as manageable.
“The EPA has completed its assessment of NW Interconnected Power Pty Ltd’s proposal to construct and operate a large-scale renewable energy project with an expected operational lifespan of 50 years,” said EPA Chair Dr Tom Hatton.
“One of the key environmental issues the EPA considered was the proposed clearing of 11,962 hectares of native vegetation, and its potential impact on fauna habitat, flora and vegetation. The EPA also considered the potential impact from the construction and operation of four subsea cables on benthic communities and habitat, marine environmental quality and marine fauna.
“Fire management was also considered a key issue, with a staged fire management strategy proposed to monitor the potential impacts and benefits of a landscape-scale prescribed burns program.”
The EPA recommended that the proposal be implemented, subject to conditions including consultation on management plans with relevant stakeholders, including traditional landowners.
The EPA’s report on the Asian Renewable Energy Hub to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing 18 May 2020. Appeals can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au
The Minister for Environment will make the final decision on the proposal.