Wednesday, 19 June 2019 10:52

Wind, solar and battery to power WA mine

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Wind, solar and battery to power WA mine Image by Ben Schonewille

Second-hand wind turbines, solar and a battery will combine to power a remote mine in Western Australia, in a claimed first-of-its kind project supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The deal will see ARENA providing $3 million in funding to Port Gregory Wind Farm to build grid-connected wind, solar and lithium-ion battery project in Port Gregory, near Kalbarri.

The project will consist of a hybrid 2.5 MW wind farm, 1 MW solar farm and a 2 MW / 0.5 MWh battery that will provide power to a garnet mining and processing operation run by GMA Garnet.

The $11.2 million project will see the wind and solar farm located adjacent to the garnet mine, providing up to 70% of GMA’s electricity needs.

The project was developed by Perth-based Advanced Energy Resources, a renewable energy developer, generator and electricity retailer – and after developing the project for 13 years, AER will build, own and operate the site, due to be commissioned in December.

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said the project could provide a clean energy alternative for other mines in remote locations at the fringe of Western Australia’s electricity grid.

“Fringe-of-grid communities in mid-west Western Australia suffer from network outages, so this is a great step forward in creating a template for other electricity users in similar conditions, to replicate and reduce electricity costs and improve reliability and stability.”

Miller said, in an Australian-first, the project would also use wind turbines from northern Germany which were decommissioned and refurbished in Australia by AER.

“In Europe, there is a significant market for refurbished wind turbines, as wind farms increase their capacity by upgrading smaller turbines for larger, more powerful ones. Now, AER has brought experience from the European market to enable them to give these turbines a second life in Western Australia,” Miller said.

“The project will also use a novel approach to resolving the challenges of connecting large amounts of renewable energy to weak, fringe-of-grid locations by using ‘back-to-back inverter topology’, a design that decouples the load and renewable energy generators from the grid via a DC link.

“This grid connection design will overcome challenges associated with connections to weak grids, providing backup power, and facilitating high penetrations of customer-side renewable generation. Effectively, this approach allows the solar and wind to operate in a microgrid with the battery and inverters, which avoided the need to upgrade the network.”

AER managing director Luca Castelli said the project would build on the company’s 13-year history in owning and operating wind and solar generation assets by demonstrating an alternative approach to renewable energy project development that will commercialise projects previously deemed unfeasible for technical or commercial reasons.

“With ARENA’s support, AER will showcase an innovative way of delivering low cost, reliable renewable energy to large energy users in fringe of grid areas in a project that delivers several Australian-first ideas," he said.

“By thinking outside the box, we’ve been able to commercialise a new approach to energy storage and renewable energy project delivery which will change the way that renewable energy generators are delivered in weak, fringe of grid areas and by customers who are unable to commit to long term power purchase agreements.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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