Steel giant BlueScope has announced a $20 million investment to expand local manufacturing of components used in wind and solar projects, as the company prepares to meet a surge in demand for wind and solar components under the NSW Liberal government’s ambitious renewable transition plan.
BlueScope’s investment will be split split between pivoting its own operations towards the manufacture of steel materials for renewable energy projects, as well as investing in attracting local manufacturers to produce components that are otherwise imported from overseas.
BlueScope anticipates that the investment will be able to bring around 300 new jobs to the Illawarra region, with the company aiming to establish its own ‘BlueScope Renewables Manufacturing Zone’ in and around the company’s operations at Port Kembla.
“Half of the $20million incentive program will be on offer to companies who want to build manufacturing capability in NSW, especially in the fast-growing renewable energy sector,” BlueScope chief executive Mark Vassella said. “The other half would be invested by BlueScope directly at the Steelworks, to tool up our facilities in preparation for this exciting growth opportunity.
“We will invest directly in our own plant, but also partner with innovators and entrepreneurs to develop new technology solutions in key industries like renewables, infrastructure, defence, manufacturing and sustainable buildings.”
“An immediate focus will be supporting the manufacture of wind tower, solar farm, pumped hydro, electricity transmission facilities. There is large and growing demand for all these equipment types which, in NSW, are currently imported as pre-fabricated finished goods,” Vassella added.
Last week, the NSW government announced that it would establish a new ‘Manufacturing Renewables Taskforce’, which will be tasked with identifying opportunities to include locally manufactured materials and components in new renewable energy infrastructure being built in the state.
As part of the NSW government’s local manufacturing ambitions, the government will seek to boost the supply of locally manufactured steel, which is expected to be in high demand to meet the anticipated surge in construction of new wind and solar projects.
The NSW government expects to attract up to 12GW of new wind and solar projects and $32 billion investment over the next decade, under an Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, launched last week.
“Industry tells us we will need more than 650,000 tonnes of steel to deliver our three Renewable Energy Zones – my priority is finding ways to make sure that the steel and other products that power NSW, are made in NSW by NSW manufacturers,” NSW energy minister Matt Kean said at the time.
BlueScope said that the NSW government’s commitment to establishing Renewable Energy Zones had already influenced investment decisions to boost its local steel component manufacturing capabilities.
“The REZ helps underpin the domestic demand rationale for BlueScope to proceed with planning for the reline of its No 6 Blast Furnace – a long term, significant capital investment in the Illawarra that could see the Company’s own carbon emissions reduce,” Vassella added.
“This is a great time to be an Australian manufacturer – a time when all our key stakeholders; the community, our employees, governments at all three levels, unions, suppliers, investors and customers, all combine to rebuild Australia’s manufacturing capacity. It will lead to new jobs, economic development and a sustainable Australian steel industry.”
Steel and aluminium are both core components in wind and solar farms, with tubular steel components used in the construction of wind turbines, and steel or aluminium bracketing used for the mounting of solar panels in both small and large scale solar projects.
Often these components are produced offshore before being shipped to Australia, with a limited volume being produced locally, such as the wind turbine towers produced by Keppel Prince Engineering in Victoria.
The Manufacturing Renewables Taskforce will look for ways to boost local content in renewable energy projects being developed as part of the recently launched NSW electricity infrastructure strategy, including the mandating local content in any tenders or underwriting contracts entered into by the NSW government.