Fortescue Metals Group is to invest $450 million as part of a program that will see hybrid solar gas energy delivered to the under-construction Iron Bridge magnetite project in the Pilbara of Western Australia.
The Pilbara Generation project – as it is called – is the next stage of its Pilbara Energy Connect program, the company said. This complements the $250 million Pilbara Transmission project, announced in October 2019, and will provide low cost power to the energy efficient Iron Bridge project.
The Pilbara Transmission project consists of 275 km of high voltage transmission lines connecting Fortescue’s mine sites, while the Pilbara Generation project will include 150 MW of gas-fired generation, together with 150 MW of solar photovoltaic generation. This will be supplemented by large scale battery storage and will be constructed, owned and operated by Fortescue, the company said.
Together, the transmission and generation projects, totalling $700 million of investment, form the Pilbara Energy Connect program of works providing Fortescue with a hybrid solar gas energy solution that will enable low cost power to be delivered to Iron Bridge. “This allows Fortescue to leverage its existing energy infrastructure including the Fortescue River Gas Pipeline and generation capacity at the Solomon power station and support the incorporation of large scale renewable energy,” the company said.
The Pilbara Energy Connect project builds on the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid project which was announced last year. This landmark agreement with Alinta Energy will see up to 100% of daytime stationary energy requirements of the Chichester Hub iron ore operations powered by renewable energy.
Alinta will build, own and operate the 60 MW solar PV generation facility at the Chichester Hub and 60 km transmission line linking the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mining operations with Alinta Energy’s Newman gas-fired power station. On completion, this will integrate with the Pilbara Energy Connect program, via the Pilbara Transmission project.
Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Mining is a 24/7 operation and efficient, reliable, competitive energy generation remains an important consideration for the mining sector in Western Australia. The lack of an integrated transmission network in the Pilbara has been a key barrier to entry for large scale renewables and Fortescue’s investment will address this issue.
“Fortescue’s commitment of $700million in electricity generation and transmission infrastructure will complete the integration of Fortescue’s stationary energy requirements in the Pilbara into an efficient network, while lowering the overall cost of electricity to existing and future sites.
“By installing 150 MW of solar PV as part of the Pilbara Generation project, the modelling indicates we will avoid up to 285,000 t of CO2/y in emissions, as compared to generating electricity solely from gas.
“Importantly, Pilbara Energy Connect allows for large scale renewable generation such as solar or wind to be connected at any point on the integrated network, positioning Fortescue to readily increase our use of renewable energy in the future.”
Pilbara Energy Connect builds on Fortescue’s previous energy initiatives, including the construction of the Fortescue River Gas Pipeline, the conversion of the Solomon Power Station from diesel to gas generation, as well as a partnership agreement with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to develop and commercialise hydrogen technology.