Rio Tinto adding battery storage, more solar at Australian mine

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An operational battery storage system at the Agnew Gold Mine in Western Australia. Image: EDL.

A battery energy storage system (BESS) paired with a new solar project will be installed at an off-grid mine in the Australian state of Queensland to help the site reduce diesel use.

Mining company Rio Tinto, which owns the Weipa bauxite mine, has approved the 4MW / 4MWh battery system and 4MW solar farm, which will add to a 1.6MW solar plant already operational at the site.

Power station operating company EDL has been contracted to build, own and operate the new storage and solar installations, with work on the battery facilities to begin this year and construction of the whole project expected to be complete by late 2022.

EDL said the additions will integrate with the current solar farm and diesel-fired power station “to balance sustainability with reliability”, adding that the battery storage will stabilise the power system, while the thermal generation fills the gap in the evening or when there is low sunlight.

When complete, it is expected the new solar and battery will provide about 11GWh of energy annually. Rio Tinto said combined with upgrades to the existing Weipa power generation network, the improvements will reduce diesel consumption at the bauxite mine operation by an estimated 7 million litres per year.

“The new solar farm and battery storage at Weipa will help us lower our carbon footprint and diesel use in a reliable way,” said Michelle Elvy, Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific bauxite operations general manager.

The addition of energy storage at the site follows Rio Tinto revealing plans to combine 34MW of solar PV with a 12MWh energy storage system at an iron ore mine in Western Australia.

EDL’s work at off-grid mines, meanwhile, has seen it install 13MW of battery storage alongside solar, wind and gas/diesel engines at the Agnew Gold Mine in Western Australia, allowing the site to meet 50% of its energy demand with renewables.

This story first appeared on PV Tech.

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