Rio Tinto to build first solar plant in Western Australia to power iron ore mine
Rio Tinto has approved a $98 million (100 percent basis) investment in a new solar plant at the Koodaideri Mine in the Pilbara, Australia, as well as a lithium-ion battery energy storage system to help power its entire Pilbara power network.
The 34 MW solar photovoltaic plant is expected to supply all of Koodaideri’s electricity demand during peak solar power generation times and approximately 65 percent of the mine’s average electricity demand, the company said in a release.
The plant, Rio Tinto’s first company-owned solar facility, will consist of an estimated 100,000 panels, covering an area of 105 ha (260 acres). Construction is expected to begin later this year, subject to government approvals, and is due to be completed in 2021.
Complementing it will be a new 12 MWh battery energy storage system in Tom Price that will provide spinning reserve generating capacity to support a stable and reliable network.
The solar plant and battery are estimated to lower annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 90 kt (99,000 st) compared to conventional gas powered generation. This is the equivalent of taking about 28,000 cars off the road.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said “The construction of our first solar plant in the Pilbara is a significant milestone for the business and an important step in reducing our carbon footprint in the region.
“We are investigating additional renewable energy options in the Pilbara, as well as other opportunities to reduce emissions across our entire global portfolio, building on the 43 percent reduction in absolute greenhouse gas emissions since 2008.”
Rio Tinto is working to define new emissions reduction targets from 2020 as part of our transition to a lower carbon world.
The Koodaideri Mine is 100 percent owned by Rio Tinto. The mine is located approximately 22 miles (35 km) north-west of Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina mine site, and about 110 km (68 miles) from the town of Newman.
Funding for the solar plant and battery sits within Rio Tinto’s existing guidance for sustaining capital expenditure for its iron ore business.
The $2.6 billion Koodaideri Mine was approved in November last year with construction commencing earlier this year. Production capacity will be 43 Mt/a (47 million stpy) with first production is expected to commence by the end of 2021.
Rio Tinto's Weipa operation in Queensland sources power from an on-site solar facility.