A monumental off-grid renewable mining project has been successfully completed in remote Western Australia, demonstrating a confluence between established and emerging Australian industries.More than 34,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed at the DeGrussa copper-gold mine alongside 6 MW (1.8 MWh) of new battery storage. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is supporting the $40 million project with $20.9 million recoupable grant funding and the CEFC has committed $15 million in debt finance.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the successful commissioning marked a turning point for the use of renewable energy in off-grid industries.“This is a clear example of renewables providing substantial, reliable results for one of Australia’s largest industries,” Mr Frischknecht said.“The project has achieved a series of firsts. It’s the largest off-grid solar PV system in the world and one of the largest solar plants providing peak power load to a mining operation.
“The project was constructed in 10 months and delivered on budget, despite being located in remote Australia.“Cutting-edge technology is being demonstrated at the site, with advanced lithium-ion batteries storing solar power and sun-tracking solar PV panels maximising plant output. Smart control systems are linking these components with the existing diesel plant to maximise the amount of renewable energy delivered.
“Mine owner Sandfire Resources is benefitting from more predictable power costs and is anticipating potential cost savings through reduced reliance on trucked-in diesel.“ARENA supports first-of-a-kind projects like this because they are crucial for increasing confidence amongst industry, project developers, investors and financers.“The mining industry has been watching the progress at Degrussa. Sandfire has already fielded enquiries from other miners looking to take advantage of renewable energy and tap into Sandfire’s experience.
“We’re helping to share project lessons with the industry to speed up this process and further capitalise on ARENA’s funding support.”Power is being provided to the mine under a 6 year power purchase agreement. If the mine continues operating past this point, ARENA funding will be paid back as the power plant continues to generate solar energy.