Australia's largest off-grid solar power plant will cost $40 million and be built in the desert

DeGrussa Copper Gold Mine in WA. Supplied

A $40 million solar power plant, Australia’s largest off-grid project, will be created in the desert at the DeGrussa copper and gold mine about 900 km from Perth.

Government funding and a power buyback deal mean the cost to the mine’s owner, Sandfire Resources, will be less than $1 million.

Work starts this month on the 10MW solar power plant with 6MW of battery storage. It is expected to be up and running in 2016.

The power station will have 34,080 solar panels spread over 20 hectares and will be one of the world’s largest integrated solar installations providing peak load power to a mining operation.

The project, to be built by renewable energy group juwi, will reduce diesel consumption and cut carbon emissions by more than 12,000 tonnes of CO2.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is committing up to $15 million in finance, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency is providing $20.9 million and Neoen, an independent energy company, contributing most of the rest.

Sandfire’s cash contribution will be less than $1 million. Sandfire will purchase the solar power generated at a fixed rate lower than the historical cost of diesel-generated power.

juwi Renewable Energy Pty Ltd will develop and operate the project.

“We identified some time ago that solar power presented an exciting opportunity for us to participate in a low-risk renewable energy initiative at DeGrussa,” says Sandfire Managing Director Karl Simich.

“We have no doubt that this project has the potential to be an Australian and possibly a world first — establishing DeGrussa as a reference site for the use of off-grid solar and battery storage technology in the mining industry.”

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