Sandfire Resources will soon commence construction of a $40 million solar power plant at the Degrussa Copper mine in Western Australia.
The miner has executed a final Power Purchase Agreement with juwi Renewable Energy, which will develop and operate the project.
Sandfire has benefited from the $20.9 million worth of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and along with most of the remaining balance contributed by French facility owner Neoen, Sandfire will contribute less than $1 million to the project.
The project comprises a 10.6MW solar array of 34,080 panels, covering an area of 20 hectares.
OTOC Limited has secured the contract for the build, due to commence this month and be completed by the end of 2015.
Sandfire MD Karl Simich said solar power represented an exciting opportunity to participate in a low-risk renewable energy initiative.
“The project has the potential to reduce the mine’s diesel consumption and is consistent with our relentless focus on driving down costs,” he said.
“At the same time it will reduce our carbon footprint, make an important contribution towards achieving improved environmental outcomes and potentially helf promote the use of renewable energy in the Australian mining industry.”
Solar and wind projects were recently disapproved for funding by the federal government, which directed ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to focus on new technologies.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the Degrussa solar power plant would be a world leading example that could drive 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,” Frischknecht said.
“Renewables are already competitive with fossil fuels in many off-grid applications, offering a strong, secure and reliable alternative to trucked-in diesel.
“ARENA support will help overcome the early-mover costs currently facing renewable mining projects.
Frischknecht also said the DeGrussa project was supported by modelling showing similar projects could be viable without government subsidies in the near future.
“As with all ARENA supported projects, a detailed knowledge sharing plan has been developed to share operational data and information about the risks, diesel savings achieved and strategies to enable higher penetrations of renewables,” he said.