Biggest solar farm outside main grids nearly complete, miner counts huge savings | RenewEconomy

Biggest solar farm outside main grids nearly complete, miner counts huge savings

The biggest solar farm to be built in Australia outside of its two main grids in nearing completion, and miners are already counting the savings.


The biggest solar farm to be built in Australia outside of its two main grids is nearing completion, with more than 90 per cent of the 60MW Chichester solar farm in the Pilbara installed as at the end of October.

The Chichester solar farm is being built by Alinta as part of a plan to extend the local grid in the Pilbara region of Western Australia beyond the Roy Hill iron ore mine owned by Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart, and connect with the Chichester and Cloudbreak iron ore mines that are operated by another billionaire, Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Mines.

It is the biggest solar farm outside the main National Electricity Market and the South West Interconnected System in WA, and is the first major plank in Fortescue’s plans to reach net zero emissions by 2040. It will be followed by another network extension, another 150MW solar farm and another big battery, to complement the highly successful Newman battery which is already sited at the other end of the local grid.

Fortescue says the Chichester solar farm, and the new connection to the Newman gas and battery hybrid power station will displace around 100 million litres annually of diesel used in the existing Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak power stations.

Solar is expected to provide all the daytime electricity needs for much of the time, and the Newman battery will ensure a more reliable supply from the gas generators that will fill in the gap, as it has been shown to do over the last few years, lowering costs to customers, improving reliability, and giving a handsome payback to Alinta.

The extra 60kms of transmission line to the Fortescue mines will be followed by another 275km line extension to its new Iron Bridge mining operation and the Solomon generator that will be converted to gas, with another 150MW solar farm to be built along with another big battery.

Fortescue reported in its recent quartlerly production update that by the end of the September quart about  80,000 solar panels, 125 transmission towers and 45 kilometres of transmission line had been installed.

RenewEconomy now understands that about 90 per cent of the 166,740 panels that will make up the 60MW Chichester solar farm have now been installed. This is despite the failure of sub contractor RL Solar, which forced EPC contractor Downer to rehire much of the work force through a labour hire company.

  • Fortescue says bulk earthworks are well advanced for the second stage – known as Pilbara EnergyConnect, and 100 transmission poles have been erected in preparation for transmission line installation.

It is also moving on lowering emissions in transport, introducing hydrogen into its truck, bus and car fleet, and looking at opportunities to use more renewables to create a green hydrogen export opportunity in Australia.

Forrest, through his private companies, has already invested in the massive 10GW Sun Cable solar farm and 20GWh battery storage project in the northern Territory that could supply Singapore through a sub-sea cable, and has also been involved in the buyout of renewable energy developer Windlab.


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