• Alinta Energy’s 145 MW existing gas-fired power plant will be connected with a new 60 MW solar power project in Australia through transmission lines & it will be funded by ARENA and NAIF
  • The hybrid project will power two iron ore mines of Fortescue Metals Group with renewable energy through the day and with gas fired capacity rest of the time
  • The 60 MW solar project will begin construction before the end of 2019 and start commercial operations by mid-2021
  • Another solar + battery project for Lord Howe Island will also be partly financed by ARENA and NSW government along with the island’s management

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has approved AUD 24.2 million ($16.56 million) in funding for a solar gas hybrid project, which will power iron ore mining operations of Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines owned by Fortescue Metals Group. The hybrid project will ensure the mine runs exclusively on renewable energy throughout the day, while gas fired generation will take place at night.

The project is being helmed by Alinta Energy Pilbara Finance Pty Ltd. A 60 MW solar PV facility will be constructed close to 60 km of new transmission lines to link Fortescue’s Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines with the new solar farm and 145 MW existing gas-fired Newman Power Station and its 35 MW/11 MWh battery storage system.

The solar project will enter into construction before the end of 2019 and come online by mid-2021.

ARENA says this will make Pilbara region the home to first major iron ore mining operation in the country to be run entirely by renewable energy.

Power produced by the hybrid system will be purchased by Fortescue helping it switch from polluting diesel generators and reduce its carbon emissions from stationery generation by around 40%. ARENA says this project highlights the benefits of integrating renewable energy into mining processes to displace fossil fuel generation.

Alinta’s project will demonstrate how renewable energy solutions can deliver critical energy requirements for major mining operations and help reduce emissions,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “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.”

A loan of up to AUD 90 million ($61.6 million) has also been committed by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) for the project.

Solar+battery system for Lord Howe Island

ARENA has also approved AUD 4.5 million ($3.08 million) to fund the construction of another solar project with 1.2 MW capacity and battery system of more than 3.2 MWh for the remote island of Lord Howe. The integrated solar and storage system will generate enough power to cater to two-thirds of the island’s electricity replacing diesel fired generation.

Financial support of AUD 11.1 million ($7.6 million) will also come from the New South Wales (NSW) government and the Lord Howe Island Board (LHIB). ARENA says the solar and storage system has specifically been designed for a small and remote location as the Lord Howe Island where in earlier planned wind turbines were finally replaced by storage component.

Having won the project under an auction conducted by the LHIB, Photon Energy Engineering Australia will begin construction on site in early 2020 and complete by June the same year.

ARENA said results of this project will help in designing such systems for other isolated and remote communities in the country.