Fortescue Metals will invest US$450 million into the Pilbara Generation project, the next stage of its Pilbara energy connect program. The Pilbara Transmission project consists of 275 kilometers (km) of high-voltage transmission lines connecting Fortescue’s mine sites, while the Pilbara Generation project will include 150 megawatts (MW) of gas fired generation, together with 150 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation. This will be supplemented by large-scale battery storage and will be constructed, owned and operated by Fortescue.

Together, the transmission and generation projects, totaling US$700 million, form the Pilbara energy connect program of works providing Fortescue with a hybrid solar gas energy solution that will enable low cost power to be delivered to Iron Bridge. This allows Fortescue to leverage its existing energy infrastructure including the Fortescue River Gas Pipeline and generation capacity at the Solomon Power Station and support the incorporation of large-scale renewable energy.

The Pilbara Energy Connect project builds on the Chichester solar gas hybrid project, which was announced last year. This landmark agreement with Alinta Energy will see up to 100% of daytime stationary energy requirements of the Chichester Hub iron ore operations powered by renewable energy. Alinta will build, own and operate the 60-MW solar PV generation facility at the Chichester Hub and 60-kilometer (km) transmission line linking the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mining operations with Alinta Energy’s Newman gas-fired power station. On completion, this will integrate with the Pilbara energy connect program, via the Pilbara Transmission project.

“The lack of an integrated transmission network in the Pilbara has been a key barrier to entry for large-scale renewables and Fortescue’s investment will address this issue,” CEO Elizabeth Gaines said. “Fortescue’s commitment of US$700 million in electricity generation and transmission infrastructure will complete the integration of Fortescue’s stationary energy requirements in the Pilbara into an efficient network, while lowering the overall cost of electricity to existing and future sites.”

By installing 150 MW of solar PV as part of the Pilbara generation project, Fortescue said it could avoid up to 285,000 metric tons of CO2 per year in emissions, as compared to generating electricity solely from gas.