Fortescue and Alinta Energy switch on solar

Alinta Energy’s Chichester Hub solar farm has begun production for Fortescue Metals Group in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA).

The 60-megawatt facility is the largest solar farm on a remote network in WA.

It has already powered up to 100 per cent of daytime operations at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines, and will displace around 100 million litres of diesel every year.

Supply will be backed up by battery storage and gas generation at Alinta Energy’s Newman power station.

“We took an ambitious brief from Fortescue, who wanted to dramatically slash their emissions, and made it a reality in just three years,” Alinta Energy managing director and chief executive officer Jeff Dimery said.

“I can’t understate the engineering challenge of designing and building a renewable solution on this scale, in a harsh environment like the Pilbara, to meet the reliability standards of mines like these.

“I’m very proud of the team, our partners and customer Fortescue, our lead contractor Downer and their subcontractors and suppliers, NAIF, ARENA, the pastoralist Roy Hill station and in particular the Nyiyaparli People on whose country the solar farm sits.”

The Pilbara is one of the sunniest regions in Australia with approximately 4015 hours of sun per year.

The Chichester Hub solar farm has over 160,000 solar panels covering an area of 120 hectares.

The project received funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) as well as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of its Advancing Renewables Program.

“This is a monumental step forward to see solar and battery storage help to displace diesel on mining sites,” ARENA chief executive officer Darren Miller said.

“Optimising the transition to renewable electricity has been a key priority for ARENA and we are excited to see the Alinta Energy and Fortescue project now successfully using solar energy for the day-to-day operations of the mines.”

The project also included the construction of approximately 60 kilometres of new transmission lines to link Fortescue’s Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines to the solar farm and Alinta Energy’s existing network infrastructure.

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