Sandfire Resources announced that the new solar power facility at its DeGrussa copper-gold mine in Western Australia has achieved full generation capacity after successfully attaining key milestones during commissioning. The facility is currently generating approximately 7 megawatts (MW) of power, which is in line with seasonal expectations. Solar generating output will ramp up during the summer months to achieve the full 10-MW functional capacity.

The $40 million project comprises more than 34,000 solar PV panels. (Photos: Sandfire Resources)
The $40 million project comprises more than 34,000 solar PV panels. (Photos: Sandfire Resources)

The solar array covers a total area of more than 20 hectares (50 acres) at the site, which is located immediately adjacent to the DeGrussa underground mine and processing plant. The $40 million project commenced in March following installation of the last of the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. The project required electrical infrastructure to be installed including inverters to change the electric current from DC to AC, transformers, and other electrical accessories and control systems.

According to the company, the $40 million project is the largest integrated off-grid solar and battery storage facility in Australia and, reportedly, in the world. The project comprises 34,080 solar PV panels with a single-axis tracking system mounted on 4,700 steel posts. This enables the panels to track the sun during the day, improving the plant’s overall performance. The panels are connected via a network of low-voltage, high-voltage and communication cables to a 6-MW lithium-ion battery storage facility and the existing 19-MW diesel-fired power station at DeGrussa.

The solar facility has been integrated with the diesel-fired power station—owned and operated by Pacific Energy Ltd. subsidiary KPS—and continues to provide base-load power to the DeGrussa mine with sufficient minimum load to ensure it can respond quickly to meet the power requirements of the process plant and underground mine.

“This project has already attracted a significant amount of interest from within the mining industry in Australia with Sandfire receiving inquiries from several of our peers interested in adopting this technology at their mine sites,” said Karl Simich, managing director, Sandfire Resources. “I would not be surprised to see more facilities like this built over the next few years, as the benefits and potential of solar power become increasingly recognized across the resource sector.”

“The DeGrussa solar project is expected to reduce our annual diesel consumption and cut our carbon emissions by more than 12,000 metric tons (mt) of CO2 annually—a reduction of more than 15% based on our reported emissions for the 2016 financial year,” he added.

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