Rio approves new solar and battery storage project on Cape York


Rio Tinto has provided the green light for a new 12.4 MW solar farm and 8.8 MW/2.1 MWh battery energy storage system that will connect to the existing mini-grid at Weipa on Queensland’s western Cape York Peninsula, helping power the miner’s bauxite operation and processing facilities as well as the surrounding community.

Rio said early works have already begun on the new solar farm, which is expected to be operational by early 2025. Once completed, the Amrun solar farm will provide about 21 GWh of renewable power annually.

The new solar plant and battery storage system will complement the existing 5.6 MW of solar and 4 MWh of battery power built for Rio’s Weipa operations and the local electricity network since 2015.

Shona Markham, general manager of Rio’s Weipa Operations, said the new solar farm and battery storage system is an important milestone for the Amrun operation and will contribute to the company’s commitment to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Amrun solar farm will be one of three Weipa Operations solar stations, which will together provide 18 MW of solar generation capacity to our mines and the Weipa town,” she said.

“This project helps us make inroads towards our ambitions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations.”

Scottish-headquartered energy solutions provider Aggreko has been contracted to build, own, and operate the solar farm to supply renewable electricity to the mine operations, in addition to its current contract to supply electricity generated from an existing diesel power station.

The project will help Rio reduce Scope 2 emissions at its Weipa operations by up to 10%. Once operational, the solar farm and battery storage system are expected to reduce Amrun’s diesel electricity consumption by 37% or approximately 5.5 million litres per year. This will reduce annual CO2 emissions by approximately 14,000 tonnes.

Combined with the existing Weipa renewable power generation network, the solar farms are expected to reduce Weipa operations’ diesel consumption by an estimated 10 million litres per year.

The new solar farm and battery storage system are part of Rio’s global decarbonisation strategy and ongoing efforts to reduce emissions at its Pacific bauxite, alumina and aluminium operations.

Rio aims to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% by 2030 across its global operations, with approximately $11.87 billion (USD 7.5 billion) planned to be spent on decarbonisation projects.

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