The first stage of a proposed 88MW solar farm near the mining city of Mt Isa is to begin construction after the developer, APA Group, landed a long term off-take agreement with a nearby zinc miner.
The 44MW first stage of the Mica Creek solar farm will partially replace the recently closed fossil fuel generator of the same name, and is the first big plunge into solar for one of the country’s biggest remote networks. (It is not connected to the main grid, but might be if the Copperstring 2.0 transmission link is built.
APA, one of Australia’s biggest energy infrastructure companies, which lost out on its $10 billion bid for network operator AusNet, said on Monday a 15-year contract had been signed zinc miner MMG Dugald River.
The zinc mining company expects to slash its emissions by one third through the solar contract, and reduce its electricity costs. Mt Isa grid customers have been hit badly in recent times by the soaring cost of gas.
The Mica Creek Solar Farm will be build on a site near APA’s Diamantina gas power station complex and the first stage should be operational in the first quarter of 2023. APA says it is in “advanced” talks with a number of customers over the second 44MW stage of the solar project.
“The Mica Creek Solar Farm will deliver lower emissions power underpinned by the reliability of APA’s gas-fired power, while reducing the average cost and emissions of power across Mount Isa,” said Rob Wheals, APA CEO and managing director.
“This solar agreement is the result of us working closely with MMG to ensure we meet their needs as a valued customer, so they can in turn continue to support a growing and leading zinc operation in Queensland.”
APA Group also owns the North Brown Hill, Emu Downs, and Badgingarra wind farms, and the Emu Downs, Badgingarra, and Darling Downs solar farms.
Joshua S. Hill is a Melbourne-based journalist who has been writing about climate change, clean technology, and electric vehicles for over 15 years. He has been reporting on electric vehicles and clean technologies for Renew Economy and The Driven since 2012. His preferred mode of transport is his feet.