Rio Tinto to triple solar capacity of Weipa mine, and add battery storage

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Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has announced plans to triple the solar capacity and add battery storage to its Weipa operations in far North Queensland, partnering with EDL to build a 4MW solar plant with a 4MW/4MWh battery storage capacity.

Rio Tinto, the world’s second largest metals and mining corporation behind BHP, have contracted global energy producer EDL to build, own, and operate the 4MW solar plant and 4MW/4MWh project.

Work on the battery project will commence by the end of the year, and construction for both the solar and battery components to be completed by late 2022.

The new solar farm and battery storage facility will complement an existing 1.6MW solar farm already in place at Weipa, which was completed in 2015 and is also owned and operated by EDL. It was envisaged at the time that the solar could be expanded and a battery added. Six years later, it is finally to occur.

The new battery storage system will be built next to the existing Weipa power station and the new solar plant will be connected directly to the Weipa electricity network.

Upon completion, the combined 4MW solar capacity and 4MW/4MWh battery will generate about 11GWh of electricity each year, and when combined with upgrades to the existing Weipa power generation network, will reduce Weipa Operations’ diesel consumption by an estimated 7 million litres per year.

It will also reduce its annual carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 20,000 tonnes – the equivalent of taking more than 3,750 cars off the road.

“The new solar farm and battery storage at Weipa will help us lower our carbon footprint and diesel use in a reliable way,” said Michelle Elvy, Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Bauxite Operations General Manager.

“The original Weipa solar farm was the largest solar facility at an off-grid Australian mine site at the time it was built, and it played an important role in showing the viability of renewable energy systems in remote locations.

“The new solar farm and battery storage system is part of Rio Tinto’s group-wide commitment to reduce emissions across our operations. There is clearly more work to be done, but projects like this are an important part of meeting our climate targets.

EDL purchased the existing Weipa solar farm in 2018.

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