Chinese power company Shanghai Electric will handle engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) work on the 280 MW Cultana Solar Farm for Simec Energy Australia, part of UK steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance. The PV project is part of Gupta’s ambitious renewable energy plans for South Australian industrial town Whyalla and a vision of renewable energy-powered heavy industry.
The $350 million Cultana Solar Farm is expected to produce around 600 GWh of energy per year drawn from 780,000 solar panels, powering GFG’s Whyalla Steelworks and a range of key government and commercial customers.
“Cultana Solar Farm is an ambitious project that will deliver globally-competitive renewable energy on a large scale to power-heavy industry,” Gupta said. “It is a great step forward in our vision to revitalise industry and we look forward to working with our partners to bring our renewables projects to life.”
Cultana is the first project of Simec Energy Australia’s US$1 billion, 1 GW dispatchable renewable energy program in South Australia. It is expected to play a key role in the development of the visionary 10 Mtpa Whyalla Next-Gen steel plant project and GFG’S industry revitalisation strategy.
At the program’s launch last year, the company confirmed that its second large-scale solar project in the vicinity of the Cultana Solar Farm was already in development. On the occasion, Gupta said even larger projects would follow in other states and announced his ambition to invest in up to 10 GW of large-scale solar and other renewables projects across Australia, supporting industry.
Other projects in Gupta’s SA program include: cogeneration at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas; pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations and a massive lithium‐ion battery (120 MW/140 MWh), which would surpass the 110 MW/ 129 MWh Tesla big battery at the Hornsdale Power Reserve in terms of size.
The pumped hydro project in the Middleback Range on Eyre Peninsula was one of the 12 projects shortlisted under the Coalition’s Underwriting New Generation Investment scheme, which comprised six renewable pumped hydro projects, five gas projects and one coal upgrade project in New South Wales.
The Cultana Solar Farm received a development approval from the South Australian government mid May, under condition to reduce the impact it may have on native vegetation in the area. It is expected to break ground in October and generate around 350 jobs during construction and 10 full-time positions upon completion. Construction will take 12-15 months.
“Shanghai Electric have embodied the best form of partnership, working hand in glove with our people in Whyalla to develop the project,” Gupta said. “We are confident of their performance, to deliver this project on time, and on budget, to the highest standards, supporting our commitment to the creation of hundreds of new local jobs in South Australia.”
Shanghai Electric made a foray into solar in 2016 by acquiring a major stake in German PV equipment maker Manz. It made headlines last year when it revealed plans to acquire a 51% stake in the Jiangsu Zhongneng unit of GCL Poly – China’s largest polysilicon maker at that point. However, the deal fell through amid the market jitters caused by the Chinese government’s abrupt decision to rein in public subsidies for PV.
The Chinese company’s global EPC expertise includes the completion of a 700 MW concentrated solar power project – said to be the world’s largest CSP project and the largest single-site solar park in the world based on the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model. The plant is the fourth phase of the 1 GW Mohammed bin Raschid al-Maktum solar park located in the Dubai Desert.