Western Australia has an abundance of many different renewable energy resources and here we show how we're in one of the best positions in the world to generate energy from solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and sustainable biomass resources.
Despite being blessed with some of the world’s best renewable energy resources Western Australia trails the world when it comes to renewable energy, with just 6% of our state’s electricity came from renewable sources.
We currently live in one of the most energy-intensive states in the world, consuming more energy per person each year than most other developed nations and all other Australian states and territories. Nearly all of that energy is consumed as gas, coal and oil. The transition to a renewable economy is well underway elsewhere in the world; it is long past time we got serious on our home ground in Western Australia.
Here are the seven abundant resources we have and how we’d use them:
WA Solar energy
WA has one of the highest solar radiation levels in the world, with 8–10 hours of sunshine daily. Germany receives just half our sunshine, yet has more than 50 times Australia’s installed solar electricity capacity. Solar power can be harnessed in two ways – for large scale Concentrated Solar Thermal plants which can provide as much energy as they typical coal fired power station, and Solar PV systems. It’s been estimated that all of the electricity demand on the SWIS could be supplied by just 200 sqkm (14x14km) of solar thermal collectors in clear sky areas. Our report shows solar could provide up to 50% of the mix in a 100% renewable future.
WA Wind energy
WA is blessed with well above-average wind resources, it makes sense that we maximise our use of this cheap, commercially-ready resource. WA is the third windiest region in the world, with average wind speeds along the coast of 27km/hr. Wind power is now cheaper than fossil fuels in producing electricity in Australia, and is one of the cheapest and most commercially advanced renewable energy technologies. It’s used as a major power source in more than 70 countries. Our report shows wind power could provide up to 26-33% WA’s energy mix.
WA Wave energy
WA has vast coastline of 12,900km making wave energy viable. Most of the southern half of Australia receives two-metre swells for at least 90 per cent of the year, and it’s been estimated the coastline between Geraldton and Bremer Bay could produce more than five times the peak power demand to our electricity grid. Fremantle-based company Carnegie Wave Energy is currently building a 5MW commercial wave project west of Garden Island, and is also developing commercial scale demonstration projects off Reunion Island and Ireland with help from the French and Irish governments. Our report shows wave energy could contribute 5% of a 100% renewable energy mix.
WA Geothermal energy
Geothermal energy has great potential to meet Western Australia’s energy needs, either in the form of geothermal electricity or through a variety of ‘direct use’ applications, where heat from the Earth is used to replace other energy sources. The Perth Basin geology is ideally suited to offer a reliable source of shallow geothermal energy, and in our report contributes 7% of the mix.
WA Hydro and tidal energy
The Greens do not support proposals to use the vast tidal ranges off Western Australia’s Kimberley coast for tidal power, due environmental and cultural concerns about damming estuarine environments.
However we strongly embrace the potential for pumped-storage hydroelectricity (‘pumped hydro’) as a form of bulk grid energy storage to provide energy during peak periods or on days of no wind or sun (conservatively estimated to be 3 periods of 4 consecutive days a year). Energy is stored in the form of a water reservoir held at a higher elevation (that has been pumped from a lower elevation reservoir) and is released through turbines to produce electric power during periods of high electricity demand, or solar/wind troughs. Our report shows 3 sites that could produce up to 500 – 2000MW capacity.
Bioenergy, derived from plant and organic matter (or ‘biomass’) is a proven renewable energy used in all countries of the world. In WA the main potential bioenergy resources are woody biomass energy crops (principally oil mallees grown in the Wheat Belt), cellulosic feedstocks: crop residues (straw, husks and stubble) and sustainable forestry residues (sawmill and plantation residues). A 2011 study found 10% of WA’s grain-growing region was planted with oil mallees could produce more than 17% of current annual electricity generation on the grid. In our report biomass has been used as a backup to directly ‘co-fire’ the steam turbines of Solar CST in times of solar drought, and could provide 10-14% of the entire renewable energy mix.
WA Energy efficiency
Described as the seventh renewable energy source, our report shows it’s possible to at least cut our energy demand by at least one third through energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is the cheapest and most effective way to reduce energy demand, and our report adopts this target and shows ways to make these deep but easy cuts.