The City of Karratha is keen to diversify our economy to improve the sustainability of our towns and to insulate us somewhat from the rapid rise and fall of commodity prices, which have caused so much grief to so many.

One area in which we see we have a natural advantage is renewable energy – in particular, solar energy. Photovoltaic solar panels have plunged in value by 86% in the last decade and in the USA solar power is now only $50 per megawatt-hour, half the cost of coal-fired power.

And we have lots of sun and lots of vacant land around Karratha!

As the first stage in our investigations to determine whether a solar power industry is viable here, the City engaged consultants to advise us on the available areas and best locations for commercial scale renewable energy development across our jurisdiction.

Considerations included, slope of the land, proximity to existing power lines, land use planning, tenure and environmental concerns. Both solar and wind energy options were analysed.

The report was recently completed and the results are very positive.

It identified more than 119,000 hectares of land across the City as highly suitable for commercial-scale solar electricity generation. It suggested particular sites close to Karratha including Gap Ridge, the airport and west of Bayview Road and also at Point Samson.

Apparently we have 7245 hectares highly suitable for wind energy, with specific sites recommended west of Wickham and north of the NW Coastal Highway towards Whim Creek.

The report noted that a number of forms of energy export are possible but two strong contenders would be liquid ammonia, where the renewable electricity is used to produce hydrogen from water – and direct subsea transmission using high voltage DC electricity.