Korean Zinc, the world’s biggest zinc, lead and silver producer, has bought Australian-based renewable energy developer Epuron as part of its move towards 100 per cent renewables, green metals and green hydrogen.
The transaction is being made through Ark Energy, a subsidiary of Korean Zinc, and will give it access to a pipeline of around 4,200MW of early “stage” wind and solar projects, mostly in Queensland, NSW and Tasmania, and potentially up to 4,800MW more.
The purchase is a significant move, and underlines the determination of some of the world’s biggest metals companies to switch to green products, in moves that will surely turbo-charge the development of wind and solar projects in Australia and across the globe.
Ark Energy has ambitious plans to use that wind and solar capacity to fuel up to 3.5GW of electrolysers in Australia, starting with a domestic focus near the group’s Sun Metals zinc refinery in Townsville, where it will first install a 1MW electrolyser providing green hydrogen to heavy fuel cell trucks.
“This is the start,” says Daniel Kim, the CEO of Ark Energy, noting that the focus will switch to green hydrogen in zinc processing, and to other domestic supplies, and then on to green hydrogen exports near the end of the decade.
“We are targeting 3,5GW of electrolysers, and we will need 8GW of wind and solar,” Kim told RenewEconomy. “That’s where Epuron fits in. This is big news … it’s a game changer.”
Yum B. Choi, the vice chair of Korea Zinc and chairman (and founder) of Ark Energy, said the company’s long term ambition is to develop a new green energy export corridor from Australia to South Korea.
“We will leverage our parent company’s strong balance sheet to expand Epuron’s existing business model and leverage the group’s internal demand from the production of green non-ferrous metals, and our own demand from green hydrogen production, to fast-track the build-out of Epuron’s development portfolio,” he said.
The team led by Choi has been a pivotal player in the move by major industrial companies into renewables, having led the construction of the 124MW Sun Metals solar farm next to the Sun Metals zinc refinery in Townsville, the first and still the largest integrated solar farm in Australia.
It also led the push to the switch to 5-minute settlement periods in the wholesale electricity market, having argued that big utilities were rorting the markets in the old system and pushing up prices for big and small customer. The new settlement period is considered advantageous to batteries and demand management.
Ark Energy has also bought a 30 per cent stake in Acciona Energy’s 923MW MacIntryre wind project in Queensland – the country’s largest – which is scheduled to be commissioned by 2025.
Epuron was founded 18 years ago by Andrew Durran and Martin Poole, and its first development approval was the Cullerin Range wind farm in NSW (pictured above), which was commissioned in 2009, and its most recent was issued for Boulder Creek wind farm in Central Queensland in October this year.
Other projects is has brought to development include the Rye Park wind farm now being built by Tilt Renewables, and the Silverton wind farm, and among its current projects in development is the Western Plains wind project in Tasmania.
Its current portfolio also includes wind and solar projects in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania, around 7MW of fully contracted off-grid solar generation assets in the Northern Territory, and a 50 per cent stake in Fulcrum3D, a data company specialising in monitoring and forecasting renewable energy sources.
Epuron said it will continue – under the new ownership structure – to deliver around 5,860MW of projects under existing Joint Development Agreements (JDAs) that it has struck with other counter-parties.
“With the energy transition accelerating, it is a hugely positive step for us to be joining a group with Ark Energy’s track record and shared vision to scale up investment in renewable energy production in Australia,” Poole said in a statement.
“We have made a significant contribution to Australia’s energy transition to date and look forward to doing even more over the next chapter with Ark Energy,” Poole said.