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Weipa Solar Power Facility Begins Commercial Operation

Australia’s first commercial diesel displacement PV solar power facility has started operation at a remote Rio T into mine in Australia.

The 1.7MW Weipa Solar Plant will produce electricity for Rio Tinto’s Weipa bauxite mine, processing operations and township, situated on Queensland’s Western Cape York Peninsula.

“We expect the energy from the solar plant will help reduce the diesel usage at Weipa’s power stations and save up to 600,000 litres of diesel each year,” stated Rio Tinto’s general manager of Weipa Operations, Gareth Manderson.

“This will reduce Weipa’s greenhouse gas emissions by around 1,600 tonnes per year, equivalent to removing around 700 cars.”

The 18,000 solar panels at the station will generate approximately 2,800 MWh of electricity yearly.

This is just the first stage of the project.  A second, larger stage is to be built if first stage is successful and will also include an energy storage aspect.

The extended 6.7 megawatt facility would significantly save around 2,300,000 litres of diesel on average annually, limiting the carbon emission impact of Rio Tinto’s Weipa operations by around 6,100 tonnes per year.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) provided an initial $3.5 million for the first phase of the project and may contribute up to $7.8 million for the second phase.

“This is the first time a remote Australian mining operation has been supplied with power from solar PV on such a scale,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. ” The success of phase one is set to create a precedent for industry by demonstrating that solar PV is a viable option for powering off-grid locations, like mine sites, in Australia.”

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