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BHP begins shift to solar to power WA mining operation

BHP begins shift to solar to power WA mining operation


BHP has announced that the first of an estimated 20,000 solar PV panels have been installed as part of a 10.7 MW solar and battery energy storage project being developed at the miner’s nickel operations at Leinster in Western Australia’s Northern Goldfields region.

The solar farm, which is to be coupled with a 10.1 MW/5.4 MWh battery energy storage system, is part of the $73 million Northern Goldfields Solar Project, which will also comprise a 27.4 MW solar farm at BHP’s mining operations at nearby Mt Keith, about 430 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie, and interconnecting transmission infrastructure.

The Australian arm of Canadian independent power producer TransAlta Renewables will build, own and operate the off-grid project as part of a power purchase agreement (PPA) extension signed in October 2020.

German renewable energy specialist juwi has been appointed to construct the Northern Goldfields Solar Project, which will be integrated into TransAlta’s remote power grid. The renewable generation will replace power currently supplied by diesel and gas and is forecast to reduce BHP’s scope 2 emissions at its Mt Keith and Leinster operations by about 12% per annum.

BHP Nickel West asset president Jessica Farrell said construction of the solar farm comes at a time when global demand for sustainable, low-carbon nickel – a key component of battery and electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing – is on the rise.

“The Northern Goldfields Solar Project is BHP’s first off-grid large-scale renewable energy project across our global operations,” she said. “Significantly, it will remove the equivalent of up to 23,000 combustion engine cars from the road every year, supporting our greenhouse gas reduction targets.”

BHP, which last year signed an agreement with Tesla to supply the United States-based EV manufacturer with nickel from its Nickel West plant, said it expects the solar project to produce its first power by the end of 2022.

As well as beginning work on the solar and storage project, TransAlta is also working with BHP to identify potential sites for 40-50 MW of wind generation to add to the renewable mix at the Mt Keith and Leinster operations.

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