5. Global Gazette

Solar Power saves 600,000 liters of Diesel per year at mine


Developing renewable energy at remote sites is not an easy proposition – even where it is replacing expensive diesel generation. Until economic energy storage is available, renewable energy is simply replacing the use of diesel and the diesel generation capacity has to be retained as back-up. And the cost of building and maintaining renewable generation in remote locations is much greater than in urban locations.

Rio Tinto Alcan faced these challenges in developing renewable generation at its Weipa bauxite mine in northern Australia. In 2014, Rio Tinto Alcan, First Solar and the Australian Government renewable energy agency, ARENA, reached a joint agreement to develop a 1.7 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) facility at Weipa.

First Solar will construct and operate the facility with 18,000 solar panels that use their thin-film technology. ARENA is providing an initial commitment of A$3.5 million for the 1.7 MW facility. Rio Tinto Alcan will purchase the electricity under a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement.

When commissioned in the first half of 2015, the PV facility will generate, on average, 2,620 MWh of electricity each year, saving up to 600,000 litres of diesel. In the middle of the day, electricity generated by the solar farm will offset up to 20 per cent of existing diesel-generated electricity.





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