Alinta Energy will construct a large solar farm at Fortescue Metals Group’s mining hub in the Chichester Ranges, south of Port Hedland in Western Australia.


Fortescue’s iron ore mining hub looks to gain from renewables. Image source ©Fortescue Metals Group

ARENA is providing AU$24.2 million in funding towards the project, which will also receive a loan of up to AU$90 million from the Commonwealth Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

In addition to installing a 60MW solar farm, Alinta will construct 60kilometres of new transmission lines to connect to the new power system Fortescue’s Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines, which operate within the Chichester Hub.

The transmission lines will connect the new system to Hancock Prospecting’s Roy Hill mine and Alinta’s existing 145MW gas-fired Newman Power Station, which is also home to the 35MW/ 11MWh Newman storage system – Western Australia’s largest lithium-ion battery.

ARENA’s funding has been allocated as part of the agency’s recently announced priority to invest in projects that help industry to decarbonise. Remote, energy hungry mines have been an early focus, with ARENA already announcing funding for hybrid wind, solar and battery systems at GMA’s garnet mine in Port Gregory, and Gold Field’s Agnew gold mine.

Until now, the majority of off-grid mines have relied on gas and diesel to meet their energy requirements. Alinta’s new project has set out to supply all of the daytime energy needs of the Chichester iron ore mine with renewables, working alongside a gas generator that will meet any additional requirements.

Fortescue CEO Elizabath Gaines described it as a landmark project that will deliver emissions reductions of about 40percent at the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines.

The two mines collectively supply as much as 100 million tonnes of iron ore every year and have already embraced industry leading technologies to boost their productivity.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said that demonstrating the capability of renewables to deliver energy for mines and other energy intensive operations in remote areas could unlock further investment in renewable energy and bring down 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,” Mr Miller said.

“Through projects such as this, ARENA is helping industry to reduce emissions. The mining sector in Australia which is vital to our economy accounts for approximately 10 per cent of our energy use, so it is hoped these projects will encourage more mining operations to look to renewable energy and low emission solutions.”

Mr Miller highlighted that scale of the opportunity – Australia’s mining sector produces 21 times more energy than Australia’s electricity sector, and consumes four times more energy than the whole of the domestic economy. While renewable energy penetration is currently low across the mining sector, ARENA is supporting projects that are demonstrating how renewables can reliably provide electricity to power critical mining loads, while reducing costs and emissions.

Alinta Energy’s Managing Director & CEO Jeff Dimery welcomed the announcement of ARENA funding.

“Working together, we are on the cusp of demonstrating that renewables can drive Australia’s economic powerhouses forward – even for remote and complex industrial applications,” he said.

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