Wind And Solar Power Vs. Coal Seam Gas In Narrabri Shire

Wind energy and solar power vs CSG

Image: seagul

Santos’s proposed Narrabri Gas Project seeks to construct hundreds of coal seam gas wells within the Narrabri Shire area – but what if there was a focus on wind and solar power in the shire instead?

This is what University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) researchers investigated in a study commissioned by Lock The Gate.

The researchers came up with two scenarios, RE-X and RE-ADV-X, both of which involve land designated for primary production.

Renewable Export (RE-X) Scenario

This would require 41 km2 of land area (4% of the Narrabri Gas Project area), comprising 6 km2 of solar photovoltaics (622 MW of utility scale + rooftop solar) and 35 km2 (175 MW) of wind power installed in the Shire by 2030. It would supply 100% of Narrabri’s electricity demand at all times, with the surplus exported to the NEM grid.

The RE-X case requires one third of the planned gas field investment, but would generate around triple the long-term jobs in operation and maintenance of the Narrabri Gas Project.

Renewable Advance Export (RE-ADV-X) Scenario

A more ambitious proposition, RE-ADV-X sees 38 km2 of solar PV (3.8GW – large-scale and rooftop) and 120 km2 of wind power (600MW), yet would still only require 17% of the area proposed to be occupied by the Santos gas field.

The RE-ADV-X case would require an investment double that of the planned investment for the gas field, but would create at least 15 times more employees for operation and maintenance.

It doesn’t appear that dual-use opportunities or storage costs have been considered in either scenario. Energy storage doesn’t get much of a mention in the report other than to highlight it could be used to reduce grid upgrade costs and to provide additional security and opportunities for maximising return from exports.

Regardless, income from exported electricity from Narrabri Shire to the rest of NSW under both scenarios will benefit  the community as long as the clean power stations are operating, while the gas field will be exhausted after a limited period. Under the RE-X case, 0.474 TWh would be exported annually and in the case of RE-ADV-X, 2.98 TWh.

“When we listen to what’s on offer from Santos we have to ask, are the jobs you’re talking about going to last longer than a mortgage? And what will be the legacy you leave us?,” said Narrabri local, Rohan Boehm, who hosted the launch of the report. “We’d rather choose durable stable jobs in an industry that doesn’t compromise the natural resources that make Narrabri Shire what it is.”

ISF says the solar energy and wind power industry can become as vital to the region as its agricultural sector.

The report, Renewable Narrabri Shire :  Solar and Wind versus Gas In North -West New South Wales can be downloaded here.

Santos is seeking approval from the Government for 850 wells to be located over 425 well-pad sites. The wells will be located within an area of 95,000 hectares, however it says it anticipates operations on less than one percent of that area.

Lock The Gate states the project will drill through and de-water the aquifers beneath a recharge aquifer of the Great Artesian Basin and devastate nearly 1,000 hectares of the Pilliga, the largest temperate woodland in NSW, through clearing. Lock The Gate has posted a gallery of images of what it says depict “a grim pictorial history of coal seam gas in the Pilliga; toxic waste, polluted water, ruined wildlife.”

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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