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First Nations partnerships for renewable energy projects on rise in Australia: PV Tech

There are now 14 renewable energy projects in Australia that are being developed in partnership with First Nations communities.

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Yindjibarndi Renewable Energy Project

We know our country is well located for renewable energy development, so we made the decision early to lead.

That's Michael Woodley talking, chief executive of Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation.

Yindjibarndi people traditionally lived in the area near the town of Roebourne in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The area is bordered by Kariyarra and Nyamal land to the north, Ngarluma to the west, Martuthunira and Kurrama land to the south and Nyiyaparli and Palyku land to the east. 

Partnership

In June 2023, Yiyangu Pty Ltd - a company established by Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and 100% owned by Yindjibarndi people through the Yindjibarndi Wealth Trust - and ACEN Renewables (the listed energy platform of Ayala Group) developed a partnership agreement and created Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation (YEC). Yiyangu owns 25% of Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation with the balance controlled by ACEN.

The agreement between Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and ACEN has been framed to ensure Yindjibarndi approval of all proposed project sites, Yindjibarndi equity of 25% to 50% in all projects, preferred contracting for Yindjibarndi-owned businesses, and training and employment opportunities for Yindjibarndi people.

MOU

In October 2023, Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Rio Tinto to explore opportunities to collaborate on renewable energy projects on Yindjibarndi country in the Pilbara. Rio Tinto has held a Participation Agreement and Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation since 2013.

Energy Project

Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation plans to develop, own and operate large-scale renewable energy projects of up to 3 gigawatts (GW) in capacity in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The first stage of the project requires an investment of more than $1 billion to generate more than 750 megawatts (MW) of solar, wind and battery storage.

In early 2024, an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) to advance renewable energy generation and storage on Yindjibarndi ngurra was sent to the National Native Title Tribunal for registration. Parties to the ILUA are Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC), Yindjibarndi Ngurra Aboriginal Corporation (YNAC), ACEN Corporation, and Yiyangu. The ILUA was registered with the National Native Title Tribunal in April 2024, providing the necessary native title consents for the development of large-scale renewable energy projects on Yindjibarndi country.

The first project planned is Jinbi, 75-150 megawatts (MW) of solar generation with the option for battery storage. The second, Baru, is for 300MW of wind and 250MW of solar generation with the option for battery storage.

The projects will be developed on Yindjibarndi Ngurra (country) – an area covering approximately 13,000km2 within the Yindjibarndi Native Title Determination Areas. Yindjibarndi Ngurra includes numerous parcels of land with a variety of tenure / stakeholder interests, including the strongest form of native title, Exclusive Possession.