Forrest's quick fire station purchases motivated by green energy as well as cattle

Chris McLennan
By Chris McLennan
April 8 2022 - 1:00am
BIG PICTURE: Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest has plans to transform outback cattle stations to renewable energy hubs with a mix of wind, solar and hydrogen.

Billionaire Andrew Forrest has continued his massive buyup of cattle country across northern Australia to further his renewable energy plans.

Dr Forrest has added another three cattle stations to his already bulging property portfolio with solar, wind and now green hydrogen a large part of his forward plans.

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And in a speech to the National Farmers Federation annual conference this week, Dr Forrest has said forming green partnerships with stations could replace these expensive land purchases.

Responding to a question on much more Australian farmland his green energy plans needed?

"As soon as we have a proper Hydrogen Act, a law which allows farmers and station owners from across Australia to participate in both industries, not one or other," Dr Forrest replied.

"The Pastoral Act in Western Australia in particular only allows for one type of income, and that has to be sheep, cattle or whatever the business was.

"What I'm saying is allow cockies to participate in both.

"Once that happens, we're not going to have to purchase stations and completely retool them. We can just do agreements with farmers around the country who want to diversify their income.

"I'm looking forward to that and encouraging governments to allow that to happen."

His comments are in lockstep with the three big corporate players who last week announced hopes of partnering with grain farmers in WA to grow trees on marginal land.

The first aim of this scheme from Qantas, ANZ and Japanese oil and gas producer are carbon credits but Qantas hopes the forestry projects can eventually become a bio-fuel industry.

Earlier in the year Dr Forrest unveiled his own ambitious plans for a massive renewable power station across two of his cattle stations in the north of Western Australia.

It has been costed at about $10 billion.

The proposed Uaroo Renewable Energy Hub would incorporate 340 wind turbines and a solar farm to generate up to 5.4 gigawatts to power Fortescue's sizeable operations in the Pilbara.

This week Dr Forrest revealed he had also bought Emu Creek Station in the Pilbara and the Gascoyne's Ella Valla Station and is in negotiations for Yalbago Station in the Gascoyne.

The properties will now form part of Dr Forrest's green energy company Fortescue Future Industries and will continue running cattle.

But they are also to make up a renewable energy hub featuring more than 300 wind turbines and a large array of solar panels.

But Dr Forrest is also leading a push to develop a green hydrogen and green ammonia industry from the north.

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Renewable power from solar or wind could power the electrolysers needed to cleanly extract hydrogen from water.

The so-called green hydrogen can then be burned or used in fuel cells to produce energy.

Dr Forrest has already invested in the manufacture of electrolysers in Queensland.

Marking the start of work on the worlds largest electrolyser facility in Gladstone Queensland.

Wind and solar farms would be located on the Uaroo (247,000 hectares, 610,350 acres) and Emu Creek (125,000ha, 308,852ac) stations which are about 120 kilometres south of Onslow, in the Pilbara.

The proposal is to construct and operate a renewable energy generation hub to power Fortescue Metals Group Limited's mining operations.

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The company's plans includes battery storage, substations, associated supporting infrastructure, tracks and roads, and corridors for electrical cabling.

The EPA has also been told it would need to take up to 6.5 gigalitres of groundwater during construction at a rate of one gigalitre per annum.

During operation, the project would need up to 200 megalitres of groundwater each year.

Dr Forrest has been moving quickly on his energy and cattle plans.

In March it was announced he had bought Kimberley station Springvale.

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The Springvale Aggregation takes in a total of about 604,430 hectares (1,493,560 acres) across the Kimberley comprising four pastoral leases - Springvale, Mable Downs, Alice Downs, and Texas Downs.

Also In February Dr Forrest bought the well known Balfour Downs Station in the Pilbara for more than $32 million.

The purchase comprises two main pastoral leases - Balfour Downs on 431,180ha and Wandanya on 202,824ha.

Dr Forrest's Harvest Road bought the 634,000 hectare (1,566,650 acre) cattle station from Chinese-owned TBG Agri Holdings.

Dr Forrest bought Jubilee Downs and Quanbun Downs (221,408ha) near Fitzroy Crossing last year for a reported $30-$35 million.

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Chris McLennan

Chris McLennan

National Rural Property Writer

ACM national rural property writer based in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Career journalist. Multi award winner.

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