Almost fifteen years after it was originally proposed, the first full-scale tidal power station in Western Australia has finally been approved for construction.

Earlier this week, Western Australia Environment Minister Albert Jacob says Tidal Energy Australia has been granted approval to build its proposed tidal power station at Doctor’s Creek near Derby in the West Kimberly region.

As well as the new station, which once complete will represent the state’s first full-scale tidal energy power facility and will have capacity to generate up to 40 megawatts of electricity (enough to power 10,000-15,000 homes) per year, the project will also involve the construction of power lines to major centres in the West Kimberley including Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing and Blendvale.

The project, however, has been a long time in coming.

An original proposal in 199 was rejected by the Environmental Protection Authority, with primary concerns centring around the proposal’s impact on around 1,500 hectares of mangroves (which aside from its impact upon ecosystems would result in release of carbon through decomposition) and upon proposed environmental benefits being further mitigated by the plant needing at least some conventional power to operate.

In his decision the Minister says he has approved the most recent proposal subject to 14 conditions, including a requirement that new mangroves be established.

plans for the tidal project

Plans for the tidal project

“TEA must undertake further research and studies in a number of areas, including sedimentation and erosion patterns, mangrove establishment and water quality, before the project can start” Jacob says.

“TEA must also prepare a power station operating strategy and develop the power transmission infrastructure to avoid threatened communities and species.”

Additional requirements include groundwater in Derby not being adversely impacted and the minimisation of dust generation.

Jacob stresses TEA will still need to negotiate a suitable construction contract in order for the project to go ahead.

Tidal power, a form of renewable energy involving the conversion of surge from the rise and fall of tides into electricity, was first proposed for Western Australia in the 1960s when a study of the Derby region identified potential resources of about 3,000 MW.