PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Major Rio Tinto has unveiled plans to more than triple the solar capacity at its Weipa bauxite operations, in Queensland, and to add battery storage to help power operations.
Energy distributor EDL has been contracted to build, own and operate a 4 MW solar plant and 4 MW/4 MWh of battery storage at Weipa. Work on the battery facilities will start this year, with construction of the whole project expected to be complete by late 2022.
The new solar farm and battery storage will complement the existing 1.6 MW solar farm at Weipa, which was completed in 2015 and is also owned and operated by EDL.
The 4 MWh battery system will be built next to the existing Weipa power station and will help provide a stable power network for Rio’s Weipa Operations bauxite mines and the Weipa township.
“The new solar farm and battery storage at Weipa will help us lower our carbon footprint and diesel use in a reliable way,” Rio aluminium Pacific bauxite operations GM Michelle Elvy said.
“The original Weipa solar farm was the largest solar facility at an off-grid Australian mine site at the time it was built, and it played an important role in showing the viability of renewable energy systems in remote locations.
“The new solar farm and battery storage system is part of Rio Tinto’s group-wide commitment to reduce emissions across our operations. There is clearly more work to be done, but projects like this are an important part of meeting our climate targets.”
When complete, the combined 4 MW solar capacity and 4 MW/4 MWh battery will provide about 11 gigawatt hours of energy annually. Combined with upgrades to the existing Weipa power generation network, the improvements will reduce Weipa operations’ diesel consumption by an estimated seven-million litres per year and lower its annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 20 000 t, the equivalent of taking more than 3 750 cars off the road.
The Weipa operations will purchase electricity from EDL and the new solar plant will be connected directly to the Weipa electricity network.
The Queensland Resources Council has welcomed the addition of solar to the Weipa works, with CEO Ian Macfarlane saying that Rio’s move to incorporate more renewables into its operations and boost local access to green power was part of a resource industry-wide commitment to lowering emissions.
“Resources companies understand they have an important role to play in lowering global emissions to meet the challenges of climate change and the expectations of the community,” Macfarlane said.
“Investments in renewable energy projects like this is great news for Queensland and will help our industry lower its global carbon footprint, and add value to the Weipa community in a reliable, sustainable and cost-effective way.”