A gold and copper mine in remote Western Australia has switched to renewable energy, with 34,000 PV panels supplying the project with electricity alongside 6 MW (1.8 MWh) of battery storage.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is supporting the $40 million project with $20.9 million recoupable grant funding and the CEFC has committed $15 million in debt finance.

“This is a clear example of renewables providing substantial, reliable results for one of Australia’s largest industries,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

“At peak production the renewable installation is going to provide 93% of all energy at the mine,” he said.

The project was constructed in 10 months and delivered on budget, he said.

“It’s the largest off-grid solar PV system in the world and one of the largest solar plants providing peak power load to a mining operation.”

The project at Sandfire Resources’ DeGrussa mine utilises lithium-ion batteries and sun-tracking solar PV panels spread over 20ha linked with an existing diesel plant.

The mine owner is benefitting from more predictable power costs and is anticipating potential cost savings through reduced reliance on diesel, Frischknecht said.

The switch to solar will cut use of diesel by about 5 million litres a year at the underground mine, which is about 800km north-east of Perth.

“ARENA supports first-of-a-kind projects like this because they are crucial for increasing confidence amongst industry, project developers, investors and financers,” he said.

“The mining industry has been watching the progress at DeGrussa. Sandfire has already fielded enquiries from other miners looking to take advantage of renewable energy and tap into Sandfire’s experience.

“We’re helping to share project lessons with the industry to speed up this process and further capitalise on ARENA’s funding support.”