Downer to build Chichester solar+battery project at iron ore mine

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Sydney-based diversified infrastructure company Downer Group has been awarded contracts worth around $165 million by power utility Alinta Energy to build a 60 MW solar farm and supporting power infrastructure as part of the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project.

The Chichester Solar Farm will power the Fortescue Metals Group’s Chichester Hub iron ore operations in the Pilbara region in the north of Western Australia. Under the contracts, Downer will also build a ~60-kilometre transmission line linking the Fortescue’s Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mining operations with Alinta Energy’s Newman gas-fired power station and 35MW/11 MWh battery facility.

It will also be in charge of building two new substations and upgrading another one.“We are looking forward to delivering the project in partnership with Alinta Energy and we are expecting an efficient integration of the solar farm and supporting power infrastructure into Alinta Energy’s existing network in the Pilbara,” the CEO of Downer, Grant Fenn, said.

For Downer, the new solar contract follows mixed results in its renewable energy business. In the first half of the year, the EPC contractor reportedly took a hit on one of its utility-scale solar projects in Queensland – the 100 MW Claire Solar Farm, and pointed to a major risk associated with the final connection agreements, which are negotiated with the market operator and network owners.

Connection delays have previously taken down Downer’s biggest competitor RCR Tomlinson, following the company’s write-down of $57 million, and proved to be a major obstacle for numerous other projects across Australia.

While it successfully completed work on the Beryl Solar Farm in New South Wales and the Numurakah Solar Farm in Victoria in July, which provided a big boost to its utilities revenues, Downer took another hit in August, this time on its wind business. The developer suffered a $45 million pre-tax loss on its Murra Warra wind farm project in Victoria after its German joint venture partner Senvion had entered administration.