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With so much conversation surrounding climate change and companies’ responsibility to make a positive environmental impact, an increasing number of Australian energy companies are branching into the renewables space. One of these is the Australian Pipeline Trust (APA), traditionally an owner of gas transmission assets, which has invested time and money over recent years to not only develop solar and wind projects, but source 50 per cent of its electricity generation capacity from renewables.

By diversifying and moving into the development of renewable energy projects across Australia, APA is working towards its goal of shifting towards a sustainable, lower carbon future. While meeting this goal will certainly strengthen the company, an APA spokesperson says that its purpose is also to strengthen communities with responsible energy.

“This involves thinking about doing the right thing by communities, people and the environment. It goes to the way we do business as well as the investments we make,” the APA spokesperson said.

In 2010, APA’s board endorsed renewable energy as an investment stream for the business. Since then, APA has invested approximately $750 million into renewable projects across Australia.

“These include three wind farms at North Brown Hill, Emu Downs and Badgingarra, and three solar farms at Emu Downs, Badgingarra and Darling Downs,” the APA spokesperson said.

APA has made a huge impact with its clean energy initiatives over the past decade, particularly with half of its electricity generation capacity being sourced from renewables. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that its clean energy initiatives will save over 8.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere over the next quarter century, as well as providing energy for over 220,000 homes each year.

Why diversify?

APA’s renewable energy projects have developed in alignment with recommendations from the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and with acceptance of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) assessment of climate change science – that the climate is changing as a result of human influence. 

In short, it is an initiative borne from the company’s belief that climate change is one of the most significant issues facing both the energy industry and Australia as a whole. 

The APA Sustainability Report for FY2019 stated that diversifying is part of APA’s view to being more sustainable. For the company, being sustainable means to be active in helping to displace more carbon-intensive energy options like coal or oil, both in Australia and overseas and to achieve that, APA has a view to continue to grow and build its portfolio of renewable energy assets – specifically, wind and solar.

Renewable projects

APA’s $750 million portfolio of renewable energy projects has a total nameplate capacity of more than 470MW, including projects currently under construction. While APA is actively exploring the design, testing and commercialisation of clean energy sources such as hydrogen and renewable methane, the majority of its current renewable energy endeavours are wind and solar projects. 

Wind projects

APA’s 132.3MW North Brown Hill Wind Farm at Hallett in South Australia is expected to save a total of 355,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year for the next 25 years, making a total saving of 8,875,000 tonnes. It consists of 63 wind turbine generators and has a long-term offtake arrangement with AGL Energy for both the electricity generated and the renewable energy credits produced. 

The 80MW Emu Downs Wind Farm is expected to save 232,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and was the first Australian wind farm to be equipped with state-of-the-art blades manufactured by Vestas at its Portland facility in Victoria. Construction of the $180 million Emu Downs Wind Farm project started in November 2005 and consists of 48 turbines, a substation, interconnection to the main 132 kilovolt electricity grid, administration and stores buildings and a network of access roads. At its peak, it supplies 50,000 homes per year with clean energy and is expected to save 232,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year over the next 25 years, making a total saving of 5,800,000 tonnes. 

APA has also entered into a long-term agreement with Alinta that underpinned the development of the 130MW Badgingarra Wind Farm. The Badgingarra Wind Farm, which was completed in early 2019, is just north of the existing Emu Downs Wind Farm and Solar Farm. It consists of 37 Siemens 3.6MW wind turbines which are connected to the Western Power electricity grid. The turbines are installed at a height of 85m with a tip height of 150m which will help to supply more than 115,000 Western Australian homes with clean energy. The initiative will save more than 420,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. 

Solar projects

Co-located with the Emu Downs Wind Farm is the 20MW Emu Downs Solar Farm, which is underpinned by a power purchase agreement with Synergy as well as funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Completed in early 2018, the solar farm spread over 70 hectares and was made possible through $5.5 million in ARENA funding. The solar panels are fitted on a tracking system to ensure that the maximum amount of solar is collected. 

The 17.5MW Badgingarra Solar Farm (BSF), which commenced commissioning in August 2019,  is adjacent to the Emu Downs farms and co-located with the Badgingarra Wind Farm, which together created a 250MW renewable energy precinct. The BSF consists of 62,000 panels across 40 hectares of land and uses a NEXTracker single axis tracker system to provide a total output of 17.5MW to the Western Power grid. The potential output of BSP could power over 6,000 Western Australian homes and save up to 32,900 tonnes of greenhouse emissions each year. 

APA has also entered into a long-term offtake agreement with Origin Energy to develop a 110MW solar farm in Queensland’s Darling Downs in accordance with a $20 million ARENA grant. The solar farm has approximately 430,000 solar panels covering 250 hectares and was officially opened in November 2019.

In total, APA owns and/or operates over $21 billion of energy infrastructure across Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. With sustainability and clean energy production at the forefront of APA’s vision and of the broader Australian energy industry’s vision for the future, these assets and their impact are only expected to grow.

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