Remote WA mine pioneers solar and storage potential
Decarbonising mining with renewables
Sandfire Resources was an Australian first mover in combining solar with battery storage at its off-grid mining operation. Its pioneering 10 MW solar plant and 6 MW battery provided up to 20 per cent of the energy needs of DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine in Western Australia.
The DeGrussa Solar Project, small by today’s standards, helped pave the way for utility scale projects teaming renewable energy generation with batteries. While it demonstrated the potential for clean energy to decarbonise mining, it also helped us understand the complexities of financing multiple technologies in one project – a scenario that is increasingly commonplace due to the firming benefits battery storage brings to renewable energy generation.Monique MillerChief Investment Officer - Renewables and Sustainable Finance, CEFC
The CEFC made a $15 million commitment to the DeGrussa Solar Project in 2015 – at the time the largest project of its type in Australia.
The $40 million solar and battery storage project also received $20.9 million in recoupable funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The DeGrussa Solar Project, developed by renewable energy company JUWI Group and owned by leading French renewable energy firm Neoen, was designed to provide electricity to the remote off-grid Sandfire Resources DeGrussa Copper-Gold mine, 900 kilometres north-east of Perth.
Sandfire purchased power under an initial 5.5 year agreement, which was extended when the mining operation pushed beyond its original 2021 closure date. Mining ceased at DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine in October 2022, when the final stope of ore was extracted.
CEFC finance for the DeGrussa Solar Project was repaid in March 2021.
Delivering a blueprint for mining sector decarbonisation
The pioneering DeGrussa Solar Project demonstrated the potential for renewable energy to support mining decarbonisation, through reducing the need for trucked-in diesel traditionally used to operate generators in off-grid locations.
The project, which was operational from 2016, established Sandfire Resources and its DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine as an industry leader in the use of renewable power for mining and processing operations.
The knowledge gained through the development and operation of the DeGrussa Solar Project provided a blueprint for how off-grid energy needs could be met with renewable energy technologies.
Subsequent falls in the cost of solar and battery technologies and increased industry expertise means similar projects can be built today without grant support.
During its operation, Degrussa Solar Project was visited by mining companies, government representatives, universities and schools and was showcased around the world to demonstrate to the global mining industry how it could transition to renewable energy.
Recognised for excellence
The project was recognised both in Australia and internationally for its innovation with awards including:
- The Golden Gecko Award for environmental excellence, awarded in 2019 by the Western Australian Department for Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, for leading practice and innovation in environmental management.
- Renewables in Mining - Project of the Year in 2016 at the Toronto Energy and Mines World Congress.
Working with existing systems
The DeGrussa Solar Project was fully integrated with an existing diesel-fired power station that provided baseload power.
The 10 MW solar and 6 MW battery system provided up to 20 per cent of the mine’s energy requirements, offset about 5 million litres of diesel fuel and abated more than 12,000 tonnes of CO2-e annually, between 2016 and its decommissioning.
read our report
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The CEFC and the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia provide insights into the opportunities ahead in: The compelling case for decarbonisation – Mining in a low emissions economy.Read more