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Rio Tinto ramps up PV at remote mine in Australia

Rio Tinto has confirmed that Energy Developments Ltd. is set to start construction of a new PV array and battery storage system that will more than triple the generation capacity at the miner’s AUD 2.6 billion ($1.9 billion) bauxite mining operation at Weipa, in the Australian state of Queensland.

From pv magazine Australia

Brisbane-based energy producer Energy Developments Ltd. (EDL) has been contracted to build, own and operate a 4 MW solar plant and 4 MW/4 MWh battery energy storage system that will connect to the existing minigrid at Weipa on Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.

Work on the battery facility is scheduled to commence later this year, with construction of the entire project expected to be complete by late 2022. The new solar plant and battery storage system will complement the existing 1.7 MW solar farm and connect directly to the Weipa electricity network, helping to provide reliable power for Rio Tinto’s Weipa bauxite mine and processing facilities, as well as the surrounding community.

When complete, the combined 4 MW solar capacity and 4 MW/4 MWh battery will provide about 11 GWh of renewable energy annually. The solar+storage plant will be backed up by diesel-fired generators. It is expected that the upgrades will reduce diesel consumption at Rio Tinto’s Weipa operations by an estimated 7 million liters per year and lower its annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 20,000 tons.

Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Bauxite Operations General Manager Michelle Elvy said the battery storage will help stabilize the existing Weipa power generation network, while the thermal generation will be used to fill the gaps in the evening or when there is low sunlight.

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“The new solar farm and battery storage at Weipa will help us lower our carbon footprint and diesel use in a reliable way,” she 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.”

The existing 1.6 MW solar farm was completed in 2015 and purchased by EDL in 2018.

EDL Chief Executive Officer James Harman said since then, the Queensland-based developer had delivered a string of “high-penetration, award-winning hybrid renewable microgrids in other remote locations around Australia. We’ll be leveraging expertise from these projects to increase our supply of clean energy for Rio Tinto’s operations and the local community, with no compromise on power quality or reliability.”

The Weipa project forms part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint, targeting net zero emissions by 2050. Earlier this year, the miner appointed Perth-based civil contractor NRW Holdings to deliver a 34 MW solar and battery energy storage system at its Gudai-Darri mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

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Source: pv magazine