Sandfire mine

Sandfire Resources is to begin construction on a $40m solar power plant to support its Degrussa Copper mine in Western Australia.

The project will include a 10.6MW solar power generation plant and 6MW battery facility, which will be largest integrated off-grid solar plant in Australia.

Sandfire has already singed a final power purchase agreement (PPA) with juwi Renewable Energy to develop and operate the facility.

Sandfire managing director Karl Simich said: “The project has the potential to reduce the mine’s diesel consumption and is consistent with our relentless focus on driving down costs.

“At the same time, it will reduce our carbon footprint, make an important contribution towards achieving improved environmental outcomes and potentially help promote the use of renewable energy in the Australian mining industry.”

The facility will feature 34,080 solar panels spread over 20ha area and will use single-axis tracking technology, near the DeGrussa underground mine and 1.5Mtpa concentrator.

After completion in 2016, the facility will be largest integrated solar installations to supply peak load power to a mining operation, Sunfire said.

The project is funded $15m by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) of Australia, while Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will contribute $20.9m and remaining money will be offered by Neoen.

Sandfire will provide less than $1m for construction of the facility.

“The project demonstrates that even a mine in the Australian outback can be safely and reliably supplied with solar power.”

The 10.6MW solar power facility will be built integrated with the existing 19MW diesel-fired power station owned and operated by Kalgoorlie Power System.

juwi regional director for Asia-Pacific region Amiram Roth-Deblon said: “Our integrated solutions offers grid operators the possibility to place greater amounts of clean, renewable electricity into their grids.

“This is especially interesting for those regions in the world in which a lack of grid capacity reduces the potential for further growth.

“The Sandfire project shows that it is economically viable to use solar power in combination with battery storage on a large scale. From a technical perspective, the project demonstrates that even a mine in the Australian outback can be safely and reliably supplied with solar power.

“The system has been designed to provide the majority of Sandfire’s daytime electricity through an innovative control system. This opens up completely new perspectives.”

Image: The solar plant will support DeGrussa underground mine and 1.5Mtpa concentrator. Photo courtesy of Sandfire Resources.