Renewable energy could power the future of Narrabri
Imagine the scene – instead of a gas field occupying massive swathes of land across regional NSW, wind and solar power generators dot the landscape.
There is potential to turn the northwest area of the Narrabri Shire into a renewable energy powerhouse that reinforces the National Electricity Market – and new ISF research demonstrates how this potential can be achieved through an ambitious scenario that takes up significantly less land, creates 3,600 jobs and produces 3,900MW of power – within the next fifteen years.
A new study commissioned by environmental advocacy group Lock the Gate, launched yesterday by Narrabri's Rohan Boehm and ISF's Dr. Sven Teske, analyses the current renewable energy resources available within the Narrabri Shire, and develops pathways for prioritising solar and wind generation generation as an alternative to gas extraction for 2020 and 2030.
Currently, the Narrabri Gas Project proposed by Santos plans to install a 950 sq km production field within the 13,000km area taken up by the Shire, which produces 8TWh/a for the limited lifespan of the gas field. Due to the controversial nature of utilising large amounts of land for non-permanent energy generation purposes, alternative solutions are currently being sought.
ISF’s research produces two scenarios for developing alternatives to this production field – a more conservative scenario titled the Renewable Export (RE-X) Scenario, and an ambitious scenario titled the Renewable Advanced Export (RE-ADV-X) Scenario.
Both of these scenarios have significant advantages over the current Narrabri Gas Project.
The RE-X Scenario requires a total land value of 41km2 within the Shire to produce approximately 797MW of solar and wind power – fully supplying the Shire with sufficient power to fulfil its demand and export the remaining energy to the national electricity grid, while requiring minimal land space and financial investment.
Conversely, the RE-ADV-X Scenario requires significantly more land to be dedicated to solar and wind generation – however, this is still proposed to only take 17% of the landmass currently required by the Narrabri Gas Project. Additionally, it requires significantly more financial investment to install the suggested solar and wind capacity for the RE-ADV-X scenario - currently $6.5 billion, as compared to $1 billion for the RE-X scenario.
However, the benefits of this investment outweigh the costs.
Dedicating 158km2 to renewable energy generation will allow the Narrabri Shire to generate up to 3,900MW of energy by 2030, easily supplying the needed power for the 13,000 people residing in the Shire.
Power isn’t the only thing created by these scenarios, however. The peak of the construction period could create up to 500 jobs within the RE-X scenario, and up to 3,600 jobs in the RE-ADV-X scenario, through construction, installation, operation and maintenance roles.
In comparison to the existing workforce of approximately 6,000 people within the Shire, the solar and wind industry can become as vital to the region as the agricultural sector, especially through the implementation of RE-ADV-X.
Report author and Research Director at the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures Dr Sven Teske is at the launch today to outline the findings of the report.
Dr Teske said that “I have modelled renewable energy scenarios all around the world and the potential in Narrabri is exciting. Renewable energy markets are leaping ahead. If this district chooses to use its natural advantages, it could generate 500 permanent skilled local jobs by 2030, on a fraction of the land area that the proposed coal seam gas field would occupy.”