Ed’s note: Endangering our flora and fauna, one PV panel at a time

How far are we willing to go in order to ensure the green energy transition? How many species and virgin lands are we willing to endanger in order to achieve our universal climate goals and obtain cheap and clean energy? Well, as far as the Australian government is concerned, not that much and none at all…

According to an article published by the Guardian, Sussan Ley, Environmental Minister for the Australian government, ruled the creation of a huge renewable energy hub in West Australia ‘clearly unacceptable’. The reason behind this decision is the damaging impact that the project would have on threatened migratory species and internationally recognised wetlands.

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The $50bn Asian renewable energy hub would be built across an area of about 6000 square kilometres. It would entail a 26 gigawatt-capacity of hybrid solar-windfarm and would be used to power 14GW of electrolysers that convert desalinated seawater into green hydrogen. Most of the hydrogen would then be converted to green ammonia for safe export.

The hub, which has been called the world’s largest renewable energy project, according to the Guardian, could potentially revolutionise the production of hydrogen globally by creating it at an affordable price using solar and wind power. Or so the reps of the companies involved in the project claim.

In fact, the consortium behind the project claims that they are working to understand the ministerial decision and seek to work closely with the Australian government. Especially given the fact that this project, which incorporates processing plants, marine infrastructure including pipelines, an offshore export platform, and a new town to house workers, would be a good boost for the Australian economy in these hard, pandemic-affected times.  

Ley’s spokesperson replied that “the minister found the marine component of the infrastructure corridor would disrupt tidal movements and processes and this would seriously impact the habitats and life-cycle of the native species dependent upon the wetland and, accordingly, the ecological character of the Eighty-mile Beach Ramsar site itself”.

And this is not the first time that the environmental minister halts a project for the benefit of the flora and fauna of Australia. According to the Guardian, in 2020 she rejected a $100m wind farm proposal in central Queensland on the grounds that it would clear old-growth forest important to vulnerable and threatened species, including the koala and greater glider.

The leap between $100m and $50bn is of course huge, so it remains to be seen if Sussane Ley’s decision will stand its ground. But regardless of what will happen in the future, Sussane Ley underlined boldly the problem that the Greens here in Europe are promoting for years at the European Parliament.

Environmentalists have been warning us on the environmental impacts of renewable energy systems for years and they sustain that only after carefully conducted research should one consider implement the various systems. And it seems like the Australian government got the message.

Did the European ones and the Commission get it too? What do you think?


Areti Ntaradimou
Editor, Smart Energy International

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