Contract Power signs on to deliver solar solution for WA miner


Pacific Energy Group subsidiary Contract Power Australia has been awarded a 15-year Build, Own Operate (BOO) contract to construct a 6 MW solar PV farm at Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum mining operation in remote Western Australia (WA), about 120 kilometres southwest of Port Hedland.

Contract Power will work alongside fellow Pacific Energy subsidiary Hybrid Systems Australia to build the solar farm which will be designed to allow for future expansion of solar capacity.

The design will also provide an option to include battery energy storage as Pilbara Minerals looks to create further efficiencies around its power supply and storage solutions.

Home to one of the biggest new lithium ore deposits in the world, the Pilgangoora operation is currently powered by a diesel-fired power plant which was installed by WA-based Contract Power in 2018 and currently covers 28 MW of baseload power supply.

Pilbara Minerals, which retains the option to purchase the solar farm outright in the future, estimates the renewable energy generation will replace 3.8 million litres of annual diesel fuel usage and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 9,900 tonnes over the life of the agreement.

Pilbara Minerals said the solar farm is an “important demonstration of the company’s commitment to implementing environmentally friendly power solutions” and would help its transition to net-zero emissions.

“Pilbara Minerals looks forward to continuing our working relationship with Contract Power and the broader Pacific Energy Group, which began in 2018 when the first baseload power station was installed at Pilgangoora,” the company said in a statement.

Work on the solar farm is expected to commence in the coming months with commissioning expected late July 2022 ahead of commercial operations commencing in August 2022.

Pilbara Minerals said the installation of the first phase of the solar farm is just one part of the initial rationalisation of power assets at Pilgangoora.

The Pilgangoora mining operation is home to one of the largest hard rock lithium deposits in the world.

Image: Pilbara Minerals

The company has indicated a local power network will be created to join the Ngungaju and Pilgan plants, and the mining operation’s camp facilities to create further efficiencies.

Pilbara Minerals said the project is part of its longer-term objectives which include integration with other renewable power sources in the region with a view to creating further efficiency gains on the path to net zero carbon.

The Pilbara region is fast becoming a hot spot for renewable energy with Contract Power earlier this year signed to design, construct, install and commission two batteries totalling 42 MW for Fortescue Metals Group as part of its Pilbara Energy Connect project.

The hybrid generation project, which will combine 150 MW of gas-fired generation with 150 MW of solar PV and the grid-scale battery, will provide power to the Iron Bridge magnetite project currently under construction.

Fellow mining giant Rio Tinto is also pursuing renewables in the region, recently approving a $98 million solar+battery energy storage system at its Koodaideri mine.

The project will include a 34 MW solar PV plant accompanied by a 12 MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system. The 34 MW solar PV plant is set to supply approximately 65% of the iron ore operation’s power demands.

Also planned for the region is the massive $50 billion Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH), a hybrid solar and wind plant set to be developed near Port Hedland.

The facility, which is expected to eventually reach 26 GW, would be used to power 14 GW of electrolysers to convert desalinated seawater into green hydrogen with most of the hydrogen converted to green ammonia for export.

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