Sanjeev Gupta Launches $1 Billion Australian Renewables Plan

The first project in a US$1 billion nationwide renewable energy programme has been launched in South Australia, as part of a push to bring down Australia’s electricity prices.

The Whyalla-based 280-megawatt Cultana Solar Farm will begin construction in early 2019, employing 350 workers during construction and providing greater energy security to the Whyalla Liberty OneSteel steelworks.

British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta said the investment by his company, SIMEC ZEN Energy, formed part of his firm belief there was a great future for energy-intensive industries through a transition to more renewable energy.

“Solar will be the main base of our ambitions in Australia but we will have some wind and we have lots of storage solutions,” Gupta said.

“So together that gives us the ability to offer dispatchable baseload power at prices cheaper than other forms of power.”

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and local Mayor Lyn Breuer were also at the event in Whyalla to launch the first of many renewable energy projects planned for the region by SIMEC ZEN Energy, including cogeneration at parent company GFG‘s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas; the world’s largest lithium‐ion battery; and pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations.

“Today’s event is symbolic of our desire to develop and invest in new‐generation energy assets that will bring down Australia’s electricity prices to competitive levels again, as well as our commitment to local and regional Australia,” he said.

“In particular, this signals the beginning of our journey with a number of stakeholders to not only transform GFG’s operations in Whyalla, but also further enhance the appeal of this great city.”

The Cultana Solar Farm project will generate 600GWh of energy generation per year – enough to power almost 100,000 average homes – drawn from 780,000 solar panels across an area 550 times larger than Adelaide Oval.

The Cultana Solar Farm project will generate 600GWh of energy generation per year – enough to power almost 100,000 average homes – drawn from 780,000 solar panels across an area 550 times larger than Adelaide Oval

Gupta said this project – together with SIMEC ZEN’s second solar project, in development to be built nearby – will make this one of Australia’s largest solar farms, with even larger projects to follow in other states.

“All of these projects will not only improve reliability and greatly reduce the cost of electricity in our own operations, they will also provide competitive sources of power for other industrial and commercial users, while at the same time playing a key role in the market’s transition towards renewables,” he said.

Gupta said he had no doubt that generations to come would be powered mostly by renewable power, however this transition would take time and must be phased in carefully.

“Looking forward, we will therefore continue to invest in renewables, helping drive their market penetration and continual increase in affordability and reliability,” he said.

“At the same time, we will make use of traditional power sources supporting an orderly transition.”

The announcement in Whyalla came as the Federal Government announced another Tesla lithium-ion battery would also be built in South Australia, with the 25-megawatt substation to be installed at the Lake Bonney Wind Farm.

The $38 million project would be partly funded with $5 million from the federal Australian Renewable Energy Agency and a $5 million grant from the South Australian Government.

The grid-scale battery would be built next to Infigen’s existing 278.5-megawatt wind farm.

Like the Tesla 100MW battery, which began operation in Jamestown in November, the Lake Bonney substation will be designed to deliver flexible capacity and kick in at short notice to help the grid maintain stability and optimum frequency.

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