Renewable mining project raises the global bar

Thu 16 Jul

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced $20.9 million support for a 10.6 MW solar PV installation with storage at the DeGrussa Copper Mine in Western Australia.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the $40 million project is set to bolster the mining industry’s confidence in renewable energy.

“Once completed, this will be one of the world’s largest integrated solar installations providing peak power load to a mining operation,” Mr Frischknecht said. “Single axis tracking and storage are planned to allow more renewables to be used. Solar will provide the majority of Sandfire’s daytime electricity requirements, offsetting approximately 5 million litres of diesel per annum, which is more than 20 per cent of total diesel consumption.”

Solar engineering company juwi will construct and operate the project, which is owned by global renewable energy firm Neoen. Onsite assembly will be undertaken in conjunction with Perth based contractor OTOC Australia. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has committed up to $15 million in debt finance towards the project. The installation will be integrated into the existing 19 MW diesel generator facility to provide power to the mine owned by Sandfire Resources NL (Sandfire) under a 6 year power purchase agreement. If the mine continues operating past this point, ARENA funding will be paid back as the plant continues to generate solar energy.

Mr Frischknecht said the project joins a small but growing number of renewable powered mines globally and would be a world leading example that drives further advancements.

“Remote industries in Australia currently rely on 1.2 GW of power from diesel fuel that is prone to price volatility and supply interruptions,” Mr Frischknecht said. “Renewables are already competitive with fossil fuels in many off-grid applications, offering a strong, secure and reliable alternative to trucked-in diesel. “ARENA support will help overcome the early-mover costs currently facing renewable mining projects.

The undertaking at DeGrussa is supported by modelling showing similar projects could be viable without government subsidies in the near future.

“As with all ARENA supported projects, a detailed knowledge sharing plan has been developed to share operational data and information about the risks, diesel savings achieved and strategies to enable higher penetrations of renewables.”