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CEFC finances major solar storage project at remote mine

15 July 2015


The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is committing up to $15 million in finance towards Australia’s largest solar and battery storage project to date.

CEFC CEO Oliver Yates said the CEFC’s finance will enable the development of the 10.6MW solar plant with 6MW of battery storage at Sandfire Resources’ DeGrussa copper mine, 900km north-east of Perth, in Western Australia. The $40 million project is also supported by a grant of $20.9 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

“This is an important project showing the significant potential for off-grid renewables in regional and remote Australia. The solar and battery storage combination offers the opportunity to reduce the reliance on diesel-powered energy in remote area mining,” Mr Yates said.

The DeGrussa project is a unique combination of an off-grid high capacity solar power array which will be fully integrated with an existing diesel-fired power station. It will involve the installation of 34,080 solar PV panels covering over 20 hectares, using single axis tracking technology. When it becomes operational in early 2016, the solar facility is designed to provide the majority of Sandfire’s daytime electricity requirements, offsetting about 5 million litres of diesel fuel per annum and abating over 12,000 tonnes of CO2-e annually.

Energy can account for around 30 per cent of operating costs for remote area and off-grid Australian miners, which rely on diesel-fired generators. Rising production costs, global competition and the drive to improve overall environmental performance are motivating leading resource companies to look to the potential of renewables as a means of making energy cost savings, increasing the energy security of their operations and achieving an overall improvement in environmental outcomes.

ARENA CEO Ivor 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. Renewables are already competitive with fossil fuels in many off-grid applications, offering a strong, secure and reliable alternative to trucked-in diesel,” Mr Frischknecht said. 

Leading French renewable energy firm Neoen has acquired the project and provided equity towards it. Sandfire Resources will purchase the solar power generated at a fixed rate that is lower than the historical cost of diesel-generated power. The solar and battery facility was developed and will be built and operated by one of the world's leading renewable energy companies, juwi. Online assembly will be undertaken in conjunction with Perth-based infrastructure and survey solutions company OTOC.

juwi Australia’s Managing Director Andrew Drager said: “The system is at the forefront of transforming the remote power generation sector and the resource industry into one with a sustainable future.”

Franck Woitiez, Managing Director of Neoen Australia, said Neoen is proud to invest in the utility-scale hybrid solar project, which contributes to unlocking the barriers to replication. “Australia, and other countries such as the Philippines, offer great potential for development of such facilities, to replace an increasing amount of diesel consumption. Sandfire showed a major commitment to the project and we believe it will undoubtedly inspire other mining companies,” he said.

*UPDATE: The DeGrussa Solar Project was commissioned and achieved full generation capacity in June 2016.

About Sandfire Resources NL

Sandfire Resources is a leading mid-tier Australian mining company which operates the high-grade, low cost DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine in Western Australia,  and is developing a global portfolio of high quality resource assets. The DeGrussa Mine has an annual production range of 65-68,000 tonnes of copper and 36-38,000oz gold. Sandfire have an aggressive $20 million p.a. exploration program in the region to further extend the mining operation at DeGrussa.
 

About juwi

The juwi Group is one of the world’s largest renewable energy companies specialising in the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (“EPC”) of utility scale projects. With approximately 1,000 employees worldwide, juwi has been involved in the development, design, construction and operation of more than 1,500 solar PV projects and the installation of more than 800 wind turbines with a cumulated capacity of over 3,400MW.
 

About OTOC

OTOC Limited is a diversified infrastructure and survey solutions company. OTOC’s Surveying Division are highly regarded surveying consultants with expertise in land and cadastral, infrastructure and engineering surveying, aerial mapping, town planning and urban design. OTOC has a clear strategy to create a premium multi-disciplinary national surveying business. OTOC Australia is a leading provider of infrastructure construction and maintenance services for government, civil infrastructure and resources and projects.
 

About NEOEN

Neoen, an independent energy company, was founded in 2008 on the initiative of French business leader Mr Jacques Veyrat.

The company is a subsidiary of Impala SAS (www.impala-sas.com), a diversified investment Group with over 6000 employees and a global presence. Capenergie II fund (managed by Omnes Capital, www.omnescapital.com), and Bpifrance (www.bpifrance.fr) the French public investment bank, are the minority shareholders of Neoen.

Neoen develops, finances, builds and operates power plants based on renewable energies (solar, wind and biomass). Neoen is active in France, Portugal, Australia, Mexico, Egypt and El Salvador, and seeks to achieve installed power of over 1000 MW by 2017. Acting in Australia since 2012, Neoen’s approach is based on a long-term commitment to its stakeholders and the Community.
 

About ARENA

ARENA was established by the Australian Government to make renewable energy technologies more affordable and increase the amount of renewable energy used in Australia. ARENA invests in renewable energy projects, supports research and development activities, boosts job creation and industry development, and increases knowledge about renewable energy. ARENA is currently supporting more than 200 projects and is actively seeking new projects to support.