Government-backed solar farm to help power Australia mining hub

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Image: Neoen.

An Australian utility is to develop a 60MW solar farm that will be connected to two iron mines in Australia, transforming them into the first to be run entirely by renewables during the day.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is to provide almost AU$25 million of project finance to Alinta Energy’s Pilbara Finance subsidiary to contribute towards the development of a 60MW solar PV array, located in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

A further loan of AU$90 million is being provided by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

The solar farm is expected to commence construction before the end of the year and the full project is slated to be operational by mid-2021.

That project will then be connected via 60km of new transmission lines to the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines owned and operated by mining giant Fortescue, which make up the Chichester mining hub.

Those transmission lines will in turn be used to connect the hub to Alinta’s 145MW gas-fired Newman Power Station and the adjacent 35MW / 11MWh battery storage facility, creating a flexible power suite capable of powering the mining operation.

Fortescue will become the offtaker of the project which, once complete, will offset the use of nearly 100 million litres of diesel annually, with both mines currently relying on diesel generations to run.

The project is expected to contribute up to 100% of the Chichester hub’s power demand during daytime hours and reduce the two mines’ respective carbon emissions from stationary generation by around 40%.

ARENA is well versed in supporting renewable energy projects that hold the potential to decarbonise Australia’s mining output and Darren Miller, chief executive at the government body, said the Chichester project could unlock further investment in renewables from the mining sector.

“Alinta’s project will demonstrate how renewable energy solutions can deliver critical energy requirements for major mining operations and help reduce emissions. This will also show how interconnection of loads and different generation and storage – including solar, battery storage and gas – can provide secure and reliable electricity,” he said.

Earlier this week German renewables developer BayWa r.e. confirmed that it is to develop a solar-plus-storage project for a gold mine in Mali.

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