Gupta says could build 10GW of large scale solar across Australia

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Gupta says GFG Alliance could build 10GW of large scale in Australia, as well as make EVs, and use car batteries for household storage.

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Sanjeev Gupta: Supplied by company.
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Sanjeev Gupta: Supplied by company.

UK steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has dramatically increased the scope of his renewable energy plans for Australia, saying his company could build 10 gigawatts of large-scale solar across the country, as well as an electric vehicle manufacturing facility.

Gupta’s GFG Alliance and its energy offshoot SIMEC ZEN has previously spoken of 1GW of solar plus storage just in South Australia to power the newly purchased Whyalla steel works, and more for the OneSteel assets that he now also owns in NSW and Victoria.

But in a speech to the Australian Energy Storage conference and exhibition in Adelaide on Wednesday, Gupta said the plunging cost of solar and the need for cheap electricity meant that his company could invest in 10GW of solar across the country.

“We are going to build 1,000MW in South Australia, but across the country – depending on the growth in industries – it could be as much as 10GW,” Gupta said.

The output would be used for Gupta’s steel and recycling business, which he hopes to expand dramatically, but also for other industrial users, and he sees huge potential for solar to underpin those industries.

“Australia has the best solar conditions in the world, and solar is already the cheapest form of generation in many parts of the world,” he said.

Gupta also confirmed plans to begin manufacture in Australia of a radical new lightweight electric car, developed by former F1 car maker Gordon Murray.

He said this could happen within two or three years, but it was not yet clear if that would occur in South Australia, or another state such as Victoria, as recently suggested.

Gupta noted EVs had great potential not just to decarbonise the transport industry, but also to use their batteries for household storage.

“The fact that electric cars are coming, everyone knows,” Gupta said.

“It not just about fact we are going electric, it is also how that electricity is generated and how it is integrated. It is about changing the mindset.

“Energy storage will be the ultimate liberator.

“Batteries will get cheaper and cheaper. Solar panels were five six times more expensive than they are today. And as they drop they will provide a revolution in how we consume electricity globally.

“Given that Australia has best solar radiation in world  … this will make Australia a very great producer of power,” he said, and that presented opportunities to become a major manufacturer again, and seize opportunities in lithium to create a new manufacturing industry.

“We are investigating making batteries in Australia,” he said, but noted it was a long road. He also noted the huge opportunity in battery recycling.

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62 Comments
  1. Ruben 4 months ago

    I think that’s probably a bit of an overstatement. The entire NEM dips down to below 8GW during peak solar times. I know this excludes WA, but I just think that it’s unlikely that 10GW of solar large scale would be financially viable in Australia (unless storage becomes incredibly cheap).

    • Nick Kemp 4 months ago

      It probably just means his plans/ideas include new uses such as making more aluminium here instead of exporting Bauxite

    • John Saint-Smith 4 months ago

      Given that Gupta plans to use most of his proposed 10GW which would be built over the next decade ‘as new industrial developments demand’, which could include re-charging a substantial fleet of electric vehicles, export hydrogen generation and substitution for a considerable fraction of our existing coal fired grid, I rather think that Australia will need a tad more electricity in its grid than at present.

      • Jonathan Milford 4 months ago

        John you haven’t factored in the uptake of rooftop solar, much of it with storage, in the next decade. I predict that the grid will need less. (I am already a prosumer!)

        • John Saint-Smith 4 months ago

          Have you factored in the ‘capacity factor’ for solar which is well below 50% – meaning that in order to create 24/7 dispatchable electricity grid at least four times the size of our current grid (when it takes over transport, gas heating, minerals processing and manufacturing, we will need eight times our current grid capacity in solar plus a bit of wind. We can’t make the sun shine at night.
          In a rapidly decarbonized Australia, (if we plan to mitigate climate change) we will need to build more than 200GW (nominal) of Solar, and all the residential and commercial rooftops in Australia won’t give us much more than 20% of that.

          • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

            John this is not correct: most consumption presently is during the day, and as the price of energy during the day continues to drop it will enable technologies that reduce nighttime demand still further eg thermal storage for HVAC and manufacturing, daytime vehicle charging etc. So our current 40GW peak demand, less the 7GW of existing hydro, will be able to accommodate 100% RE including electrification of transport and storage in batteries and PHES at much less than 3-4 times current nameplate.

          • RobertO 4 months ago

            Hi Mike Westerman, another question that a lot forget is what happens to the clouds factor as the temperature rises Will coastal areas suffer more cloud, hence less solar power off system built close to the coast. I do not know the answer but I suspect that our Hydro will change to more peaking hydro and adding more PHES and batteries will require some 120 GW to 150 GW system name plate in total (and some will be H2 or even man made CH4 as part of our RE system because our gas system has storeage and ability to ship energy around Australia. Even Tas has 2 links at this time Electrical and Gas . There may even be stationary FC system using filtered H2 from the Gas pipeline as backup “emergency generators”. Telstra has many Diesel Generators that FC may replace).

          • Hettie 4 months ago

            From something I saw on a TED talk the other day, Robert, the way clouds are likely to behave is one of the great imponderables of climate change. Don’t beat up on yourself for not knowing. You are in exalted company.

          • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

            Robert you may be correct about increasing coastal cloud, but as WA is finding, we are probably not far off “saturation” with solar in some jurisdictions ie at that point where some will be curtailed. I have always held that PHES is likely to be peaking only for some time into the future, since its value falls off markedly outside the peak periods, especially if you have significant wind and solar – it is why I can’t see very long term storage projects like Snowy 2 making sense for a long time into the future. Meanwhile, we haven’t scratched the surface in thermal storage for HVAC and industrial heating. As LEDs have displaced most other technologies in lighting, for our large base of service industries, air conditioning and heating becomes the dominant energy consumer, and thermal storage will increasingly make sense. Imagine all those empty car spaces being filled with water or refrigerant tanks, as autonomous vehicles make parking redundant. Thermal storage is by far the cheapest way of storing energy if you don’t need to subsequently convert it to something else other than heating or cooling.

          • Peter F 4 months ago

            Mike great to see you raise thermal storage, you don’t even need much space. Ground source heat pumps can provide all the heating cooling and hot water for most houses with solar on the roof providing the input. A CO2 ring in commercial buildings can take heat from refrigeration chillers to make space heating in the same or nearby buildings and even if you just use hot water tanks, a hot water tank heated to 80-85C with a mixing valve can supply 3 days hot water for 1/5th of the cost of battery storage and 350 L of ice will provide all the AC cooling needs for a house on a hot day

          • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

            It’s an enormous frustration to me that it is not raised more. I have worked on several district cooling proposals in the past, but the financial drivers were mostly never quite there, other than a chilled water system at James Cook (see https://www.jcu.edu.au/tropical-sustainable-design-case-studies/by-building-type/all/case-study-campus-district-cooling-system-with-large-scale-thermal-energy-water-storage-james-cook-university,-cairns-campus). They will be, and that will enable not just ground effect systems but also flash vessels for refrigerant and steam for cooling and heating respectively, so enabling 7×24 solar powered large scale HVAC.

          • John Saint-Smith 4 months ago

            Actually Mike, we continue to consume 70% of the day time peak in the wee small hours. 85% of this, (about 16GW) is provided by fossil fuels. In order to cover this load, we would need much more intermittent hydro, wind, CST, or stored solar, well in excess of the contribution of renewables today.

            But as we continue to decarbonize the economy, we must add new sectors – agriculture, chemicals, transport road, rail, air, and sea, manufacturing, mining, mineral processing, and waste stream recycling, traditionally covered by the combustion of fossil fuels, to the renewable power demand.

            We need to realize that at present, renewable energy provides just 6-7% of the total, the rest, sadly is fossil fuel. So, while renewables are making a considerable and growing contribution to our existing electricity grid, that is less than a quarter of our total energy use. So simply based on the current hugely inefficient fossil fuel consumption numbers, we would need to increase our current renewable energy production by as much as 15 times to be carbon free. Hopefully we can improve efficiencies and reduce waste, costly pollution control, health costs, etc, which might save us as much as 30% of our current fossil fuel demand.

            Unfortunately, courtesy of continued immigration driven population growth (favoured by both major political parties) gross energy demand will be 30% greater by 2040, still 15 times our current output of clean renewable energy.

            That’s a lot.

          • Hettie 4 months ago

            Don’t fret, John. If, as Tony Seba suggests, renewables are set to double every two years, that 15 X will be achieved in just 8 years.

          • John Saint-Smith 4 months ago

            There’s a million miles between ‘fretting’ and being realistic. ‘Doubling’ every two years means 50% per annum. While that is easy to achieve in the early stages, doubling an already large investment is much more difficult. China used to boast 10-15% annual GDP growth, but now the same quantum of development only amounts to 5-6% of a much larger GDP.
            It is far more believable that we ‘might’ achieve a 15 fold increase in a linear growth pattern over 30-40 years. Let’s not forget that the power doesn’t just have to be generated and stored, it also has to be integrated into lots of other complex infrastructure that is currently powered by fossil fuel based technologies. Sure we can smelt iron with electricity, but there will be known and unknown challenges, many of which will be solved in lots of novel ways we haven’t even thought of yet, let alone prototyped, refined and brought to scale.

            But that takes time. The transition to 100% renewable energy will not occur in 8 years, more like 30-40, and then only if governments, citizens and industry work tirelessly for the common good, and that is another critical factor that we have yet to see in this politically screwed up country.

          • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

            John – if you look at the variation in nighttime to daytime demand across the jurisdictions I think it gives some indication of the future, why I think we have plenty of room to reduce demand and why the picture is not so bleak. Firstly, there is a large variation in the ratio, with many being strongly weather driven. The fact this is so in heating dominant regions is merely indicative of a large stock of poorly insulated buildings, so we have a choice of either overbuilding RE and storage to cope or fixing the root cause. Note also that SA has a bigger ratio, partly weather driven but partly economics driven, the latter effect will I think become more pronounced as the cost differential between solar day supply and nighttime storage supply becomes more pronounced.

            Transport uses about the same inputs as electricity because most is low efficiency ICE driven, so electrification will significantly reduce inputs and soak up daytime solar.

            Note the the latest Office of Chief Economist figures also show renewables at about 14% – you probably have left out hydro. But the exponential increase in RE across Australia is going to push this figure up quickly, provided the policy settings are there. The pronouncements of the new SA government are a welcome relief from the weak-kneed equivocating of the Feds!

            I have no issue with immigration – we have one world and everyone needs to live somewhere. A far bigger issue is the way resources are squandered by the wealthy minority.

          • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

            Perhaps not clear whether you were referring to all energy inputs (quite correct) or electricity inputs (my figure).

          • John Saint-Smith 4 months ago

            I fail to understand what you mean when you say you have no problem with immigration, as if it’s a moral issue. It is nothing more than a practical issue. Our Joshie is currently hiding from the same reality behind the fact that while our absolute emissions are rising due to population increase, he says emissions ‘per capita’ are falling! I’d love to dally with you on the subject of the waste engendered by our selfish capitalist trickle down society, and yes, I agree that’s a big part of the problem. We certainly could dramatically reduce our demands on the environment by sharing a lot more equitably, but in order to do that you have to have a social revolution as well!

            Seriously, when you come to live on the same planet I live on, you may find the transition a little more challenging than you imagine. Electrification might reduce inputs and ‘soak up’ all this fantasy of 100 times our current ‘spare’ daytime solar, but first we need to replace 10 million ICE engines with electric equivalents and make 10 million 60-80kwh hi-tech batteries to go with them in new build vehicles, while transitioning thousands of petrol stations, garages and workers to new technologies. Remember the value of the old car will be zero in a zero carbon market. Expect a bill for at least $3-400 billion. Then you have to convince everyone to make that change, when the vast majority of people still imagine that infinite growth on a finite planet is still a goer. That’s, one part of one sector. As for the others…

          • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

            It is a moral issue, just as waste is, quite apart from the practicalities. We need to cut our absolute emissions while continuing to support immigration while also reducing the rest of our footprint while maintaining social cohesion. Our current government fails on all these scores, seeing immigration purely as an economic issue.

            Regarding the transition, the reality is that most of our fleet of coal generators will need replacing within the next decade and a half, as will most of the transport fleet. Why wouldn’t that be done on the basis of no more FF generation or ICE vehicles? It seems madness to be even contemplating like for like. War time has seen far faster ramping up of capacity and we ought to be contemplating this as a wartime issue. Other states are setting timetables when ICE vehicles will not longer be available and we need to be doing so or we will have no source of replacements. As I posted elsewhere, our large EPC contractors are looking at ways to automate solar farm erection to achieve order of magnitude reductions in time on site and thereby enormous reductions in cost. $20/MWh solar is not just a cost reduction, it is a game changer where energy as a cost becomes irrelevant and instead is treated purely as an enabler for transformation, including the reduction in other resource use and waste production.

            People are not being made ready for the change because the dominant narrative is the capitalist growth model. People change in wartime because that is replaced with a change or perish narrative. Capital that at the moment is created for inflationary and speculative activity if harnessed to the transition could make it happen in time to avoid irreversible climate change.

          • John Saint-Smith 4 months ago

            I don’t know why you’re arguing with me. The only point of difference seems to be that you think the transition is essential and it ought to be easy, if only people would do the right thing. I’m saying that the transition is essential, but it won’t be easy because people aren’t doing the right thing.

            I’ve long since directed my attention to helping people, including politicians, even LNP politicians – we don’t have any other kind where I live – to see the light. But when I mentioned a potential problem with capitalism, my local member looked very uncomfortable and suddenly remembered another appointment. Card carrying Christian this one, who had no moral problem with locking up ‘illegal immigrants’ or punishing the unemployed for not getting jobs. Getting them to stop sucking coal like it’s a lifesaver is quite challenging.

            Can we agree to see our similarities, not waste time being pedantic about semantic differences?

    • Andrew Roydhouse 4 months ago

      I’m not sure where you are looking to see the entire NEM fall to just 8GW during peak solar times but that is not Australia during peak solar generation in Sept/Oct each year.

      Total demand during the day is 20GW+ and PV production is not 12+ GW (yet) it is not even half that.

      Analysing installed PV capacity vs avg hourly production (when panels have enough to produce anything) generally yields less than 50% of installed capacity at best. Even allowing for inverter losses etc etc at peak generation each day sees at best around 90% of installed capacity generation.

      • Hettie 4 months ago

        Wot?
        New panels produce annualised average about 4 X rated capacity per day.
        Or are you speaking a different language?

        • MacNordic 4 months ago

          I think Andrew referred to average kW (“power”) production during daylight hours:
          A 10kW system will produce less than 5kW on average from ~8:00-18:00.

          Which is exactly what you refer to, but kWh (“energy”)- based: the 10kW system will produce around 40kWh of energy per day – divided by the 10 daylight hours, that gives 4kW average power production 😉

          • Hettie 4 months ago

            Thankyou. Perfectly clear when you explain it like that.
            I’m just an interested amateur, but the shift to renewables is so vital to survival, I’m really into the politics of it all, not the engineering. Just want a grasp o terms and such.

          • MacNordic 4 months ago

            A pleasure – and thanks for the praise;-)

    • Hettie 4 months ago

      You are not calculating for the doubling of demand that the switch to EVs will require.
      Nor for the additional demand that a revitalised manufacturing industry would need.

      • Ferris B 4 months ago

        The switch to EVs will certainly not require a doubling of demand.

        • Hettie 4 months ago

          All ICE engines? Cars, trucks, busses, farm machines, the whole lot?
          It was on these pages that I got the word that the transport demand would double present power demand.

        • Hettie 4 months ago

          Ok. I stand corrected. I guess the assessment I saw did not take into account the inefficiency of ICE engines.

      • Peter F 4 months ago

        Hettie. I did a calculation that electrifying all ground transport will add about 40 TWh to demand that is less than 25% of current grid electricity supply. Putting solar on 15% of roof-space, will generate about 150 TWh. In your case if you buy a nice little Renault Zoe or Hyundai Ioniq and do 10,000 km per year it will need about 1,000 kWh. On your figures from your solar panels that would need another three 280 W panels

        • Hettie 4 months ago

          Oh Peter! Thank you for that, but i have NO money to buy any car. When my old Lancer died last August did the sums, and it made more sense to use cabs. Small town, a couple of outings a week, vouchers for 50% off. Total outlay less than $30/week. I already have an equity loan on the house.
          I do ok on the pension, with a bit of AirBnB – perhaps $3,000 a year. I can save for things I really want, but my needs are few. The garden and chooks keep me busy and fed, and I read voraciously, and write a lot of silly comments here and a couple of other places.
          So no car for Het.
          Apart from the equity loan, I have no debt. Zip. Zero. Nada. No credit cards, just debit cards.
          My extravagance is the lovely young lad who helps in the garden each week.

    • Ian 4 months ago

      Not sure how many GJ of oil, coal &gas are burned in Au annually….
      But most of that needs to be replaced with wind and solar electricity and renewable heat.
      The opportunity is vast

      • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

        A recent ABARE report put transport inputs as 1600PJ, the same as electricity inputs. Electrification of transport reduces that to about 350PJ, so if the total was say 2,000PJ, that’s 64GW continuous. Not hard to estimate existing hydro, wind and solar contributions to that, and estimate what the task is going forward. Exciting, so all the more extraordinary that the “party of superior economic managers” can’t comprehend what a tremendous gift of investment, and subsequent payback in lower prices and greater productivity it represents. Never are they so blind that refuse to see!

        • RobertO 4 months ago

          Hi Mike Westerman, even just a small change like supporting the idea that we (as in Australia) will no longer just export raw materials (call it a Value Added Service Fee or VASF say $2.00) on every ton of minerals exported paid to say CEFC or ARENA

          • Hettie 4 months ago

            Robert, for our dinosaur Coalition politicians, most definitely the National party, that is not a small shift, it’s a quantum leap. As is putting a realistic price on the minerals themselves.
            One would think that researching the price other nations charge per tonne for say lithium, and the relative purity of their ore, would be a reasonable first step to setting the price for Australian lithium. Do not hold your breath waiting for that to happen. No doubt it will be virtually given away, like our gas.

    • MacNordic 4 months ago

      Add it behind the meter and it becomes a financial imperative.

      Pretty sure most of that capacity mentioned would be behind the meter…

    • David K Clarke 4 months ago

      I note that right now, 0605 NEM time, NSW alone is drawing 7.5GW. Old. and Vic. between them, another 11GW.

      • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

        I wouldn’t have judged 0605 NEM time to be “during peak solar times” as per his post.

        • David K Clarke 4 months ago

          Exactly my point Mike. At 0605 consumption would be way below peak, and yet it is way above the 8GW mentioned.

          • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

            You are perhaps missing the point: increasingly, the system peak is at 0605 then declines as solar takes out black coal, with a second peak in the evening as solar declines. The 8GW might be exceptional – ie windy SA and VIC with sunny Qld and NSW, but the trend is only likely to continue: the peak demand of in front of the meter supply will occur in the evenings, and the solar peak will see a low point in black coal generation which will eventually cause viability issues for that form of generation.

  2. GlennM 4 months ago

    Sounds good…but lets see 1GW first before talking up 10 !

  3. john 4 months ago

    Considering I payed $14,000 for a 5KW system a few years ago and now it is about $5,000 just like a computer my first one with 8kb memory cost $3150 now we have the situation where every new solar installation is cheaper the LCOE for solar is now going down month on month.
    Day time generation of power in Australia can be taken up by Solar with huge Solar Farms, now to move into the duck curve use Concentrated Solar and Storage as well as PHES there is no reason why the whole system can not be totally supplied by solar and wind with stored energy.
    Yes this means building a very large amount of Solar and Wind as well as PHES however I honestly think this is the way the country will move.

    • Hettie 4 months ago

      Compared to the build cost, ongoing operating and fuel costs of new coal, the investment in renewables to do the same job is already less costly, with the difference widening by the month.
      There will be no stopping this disruption.

    • David Jago 4 months ago

      Consecrated (sic) solar storage. I like it!

      • rob 4 months ago

        I don’t …..the poor bugger made a spelling mistake……. but his comment was righteous unlike religion! Your comment get a down vote from me

    • Peter F 4 months ago

      To put some of the numbers in perspective, a 100% renewable grid in Australia will probably have about 35 GW of wind and a similar amount of solar. With current technology, another 6-8,000 wind turbines and 95 million solar panels. In 350,000 square km Germany already has 28,000 wind turbines and 250 m solar panels. The area of the various grids in Australia is about 1.8 m square km so it is clear that a 100% renewable grid won’t exactly cover the countryside with solar farms and wind turbines.
      The really interesting point about Gupta’s suggestion is that cheap solar and wind and particularly any advances in solar thermal will make ore refining and even metal production cheaper and cleaner in Australia than elsewhere, not just because we have better solar and wind resources but now the power plant can be next to the mine and transport costs and transport related emissions will be further reduced

      • Nick Kemp 4 months ago

        Also, we seem to be spending 28 Billion buying toy planes for the military yet completely happy to let foreign governments dictate our supply and price of fuel (and transport) so we are defending ourselves in a possible war and rolling over in a real one. Personally I’d like to see that 28 Billion spent on windmills, pumped hydro and solar

        • rob 4 months ago

          1000 up votes from me!

    • solarguy 4 months ago

      So you have only just cottoned on to this possibility then John. BTW what is consercrated Solar, is that Solar that’s been blessed by a priest?

      • Hettie 4 months ago

        No need to be snide.
        Have you never had moments when the right word escapes you, and the substitute you use is a bit off? I think John means “dedicated.” Or perhaps “concentrated”, and auto correct struck again.

        • solarguy 4 months ago

          Ah don’t be silly, just a bit of humorous piss taking.

  4. Radbug 4 months ago

    There’s something wrong with EV’s. They’re quite expensive to buy and yet BMW et al are losing heaps on every car sold.

    • RobertO 4 months ago

      Hi Radbug, Just remember any report you read from a company will be based on what the company wants you to know. It called spin, pollies do it, jurno do it, and everybody does it. BMW main sales are ICE cars so put all the costing on to EV, and there is less chance of upsetting the current buyers of cars (another way to put is if this is going to cost your car sales about 10% of buyers whom costs you less, so if you sell 1,000,000 ICE cars and 50,000 EV you only lose 5,000 EV but you could lose 100,000 ICE cars.

      • rob 4 months ago

        Here is one for Hettie who not whom! lol

  5. Joe 4 months ago

    The Sanjeev is the ideas man of the moment. Building EV’s in SA, that would be something after GMH did a cut and runner.

  6. John Saint-Smith 4 months ago

    I wonder if Sanjeev will review his plans to cash in on Australia’s ‘best solar radiation in the world’, when he realizes that he might not get the LNP’s 5% big business tax cut? Would it be enough to make him try to do it in Ireland instead?

    • Ren Stimpy 4 months ago

      The Caymans offers good bang-for-buck. Put a couple dozen solar panels on one roof and you’d be powering ten thousand “companies”.

    • Hettie 4 months ago

      I doubt it. He’s well committed to Whyalla and Aus.
      Ireland may have low taxes, but it has very low sunshine too.

  7. johannes 4 months ago

    At last, someone with vision and the means to revive the manufacturing industry in this country. That he’s a “foreigner” says much about the dearth of local business talent.

    • Ren Stimpy 4 months ago

      I’ll give him 12 months tops before he goes troppo and builds a dinosaur themed golf course.

      • RobertO 4 months ago

        Hi Ren Stimpy, Or a new “Titanic ship”?

        • rob 4 months ago

          Hey Roberto the above blocked user is blocked by me for a reason!

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