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“THE LAND OF SUN”: HOW THE BARKLY COULD THRIVE AGAIN THROUGH RENEWABLE POWERED-INDUSTRY

10.03.2020

The Barkly could create hundreds of jobs and boost our local economy if we capitalised on our region’s abundance of renewable energy resources.  

This was the vision outlined by The Environment Centre NT, at their Paterson St Hub presentation on the evening of March 9. The Centre’s Repower NT Manager Monica Tan said, “it’s obvious to everyone just how much sun there is in the Barkly. If we captured that sun, we could power Barkly businesses and homes with cheap solar and create high-value low-carbon products exported to the world. 

“Countries like Japan and South Korea have huge populations on tiny landmasses and have already announced in the coming decade they will import renewable hydrogen to decarbonise their societies.” 

Renewable hydrogen is an emerging zero-emission fuel. It is created by running a renewable powered-electric current that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. It can be used to heat heavy industry and homes, for cooking, and to power electricity grids, cars and trucks. 

Tan said, “The Barkly is an ideal place to capitalise on what could become a trillion-dollar global renewable hydrogen market. By using our abundance of solar we could be generating a phenomenal amount of clean energy. Through high voltage direct cables, we’d potentially use that electricity to power a coastal renewable hydrogen manufacturing hub with desalination plants.” 

The national hydrogen strategy stated that the cost of the electricity to desalinate seawater to produce hydrogen is minor – likely less than five cents per kilogram of hydrogen – and that even under strong hydrogen growth settings, water consumption in 2050 in Australia may be the equivalent of about one-third of the water used now by the Australian mining industry. 

On the proposed 10GW Sun Cable project, which would see part of the electricity generated exported to Singapore via a high voltage direct cable, Tan acknowledged the mixture of feeling in the community. “Large-scale renewable energy infrastructure can change a local landscape and community. 

“Any big solar company that comes to the Barkly must commit to sharing benefits with residents – be it financial benefits, installing solar panels on our homes and buildings, using local contractors, and creating jobs and training for Barkly locals. From early on they should take the time to understand what this community wants and needs and bring the people of the Barkly on a positive journey with them.” 

Last year the Environment Centre NT teamed up with internationally-recognised think tank Beyond Zero Emissions to produce a report that showed if by 2030 the NT Government helped drive investment in 10 gigawatts of renewables, it would create over 8,000 new jobs in the Territory and over $2 billion in new annual revenue. 

An ambitious renewables strategy can spark a vibrant manufacturing sector in the Territory, with export opportunities in energy infrastructure, zero-carbon manufacturing and minerals processing. 

Tan said renewable energy could potentially play an important role in the Barkly Regional Deal, which has a 10-year $78.4 million commitment between the Australian Government, the Northern Territory Government and Barkly Regional Council, and includes an economic growth strategy to encourage private sector growth and diversify existing businesses. 

“We’re glad to see the deal includes support processes for mineral resource development in the Barkly region. Currently the NT digs minerals out of the ground and immediately ships it overseas, with other markets capturing the value of those minerals through processing and manufacturing. The processes for transforming minerals into useful products have one thing in common – they are energy intensive. To meet the demands of a zero-carbon economy, the energy for minerals processing will need to be renewable. And what better place to do that than here in the Barkly, the land of sun?” 

Tan presented to a small group of Barkly locals working in policy and the community space, and earlier that day made presentations to Barkly councilors and council staff. She warmly welcomes interested parties to get in contact if they would like to know more. 

Monica Tan, Repower NT Manager 
Environment Centre NT 
monica.tan@ecnt.org 
Ph: 0425 243 750