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Major contract awarded for first ever solar powered mining project

Downer machinery
Downer machinery

An integrated services company has won a significant tender for the nation’s first metal mine to be fully powered by renewable energy during the day.

Downer recently secured the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the Chichester Solar Farm at Fortescue Metals Group’s Chichester Hub Iron Ore Mine, 67km southwest of Nullagine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The agreement with Alinta Energy Transmission involves building a 60 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic generation facility and 60km transmission line between Fortescue’s Christmas Creek Iron Ore Mine and Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine as well as Alinta’s 145 MW Newman Gas-fired Power Station and 35MW Battery Facility, as part of the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project.

The project also involves building two new substations and upgrading a third substation. QMEB can reveal the deal is worth about $165 million.

Runs entirely on solar

Alinta touted the project to be the first major iron ore mining operation in Australia to be run entirely off renewable energy during the day and promised to reduce annual diesel consumption at the mines by about 100 million litres. If the solar farm does not generate enough power, the difference will be compensated by gas generated electricity.

“Working together, we are on the cusp of demonstrating that renewables can drive Australia’s economic powerhouses forward – even for remote and complex industrial applications,” Alinta managing director and CEO Jeff Dimery said in a public statement.

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The federally funded Australian Renewable Energy Agency is contributing $24.2 million in funding to Alinta for the project, while the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is lending up to $90 million.

Construction is expected to start before Christmas and end in mid 2021. None of the jobs are advertised yet.

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