Work is set to begin on a 140MW solar farm being built north of Whyalla in South Australia by the renewables arm of Indian energy giant Adani, after the company received the final green light for the project.
Adani – whose name is more often associated in Australia with its controversial plans to develop the nation’s largest coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – said on Thursday it had won pre-construction approval to go ahead with the solar farm north of Whyalla.
The $200 million project is expected to generate 100MW, with a potential capacity of 140MW, and the option to add battery storage.
It is just one of several major solar projects being built in Whyalla – an industrial hub which the federal Coalition, during its Abbott years, liked to claim would become a ghost town in a low-carbon economy.
The other most notable is Sanjeev Gupta’s 280MW Cultana solar farm, which is due to begin formal construction early next year – following a ground-breaking ceremony last week – and which, once completed, will power the GFG Alliance-owned Whyalla steelworks.
Adani Renewables Australia chief Jennifer Purdie said her team was in the process of finalising its own contracts for energy supply to underpin the Whyalla project.
“We recognise the aspirations of South Australians to deliver a reliable energy network through renewables,” Purdie said.
“Adani Renewables Australia is eager to provide energy solutions to this ambition by contributing to an energy mix that is reliable, secure and affordable for all customers as we transition to a low emissions future.’’
Elsewhere in Australia, Adani is near to completing the first 65MW of its 170MW Rugby Run solar farm, south-west of Moranbah in Queensland’s Bowen Basin – the heart of Australian coal country.
In October last year, the company secured a power purchase agreement for that project, with an undisclosed Australian electricity retailer signing up to take 80 per cent of the output from the first stage development.
Like the Rugby Run project, Adani’s Whyalla project is significant for its location (the red bit in the map above) – a steel manufacturing hub that is at the centre of a green industrial revolution that is rapidly spreading to the rest of the country.
Gupta, for instance, has flagged the potential for building up to 10GW of renewable energy across Australia to create a “solar-based” economy.
Already, he has signed a contract to power much of the Laverton steelworks with a new solar farm in Victoria, and several other contracts to supply other major energy users in South Australia.
In Whyalla, other projects planned for the area include a second stage of the solar farm, what would be the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery (120MW/140MWh), a major pumped hydro project in dis-used iron ore mines in the nearby Middleback Ranges, and co-generation at the steelworks themselves.
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway said the Upper Spencer Gulf had become a focal point for renewables.
“This is another welcome investment for Whyalla in particular as the investment of near $200 million will create up to 150 construction jobs at the peak of construction and up to five ongoing jobs for the life of the project.’’
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.