While the states are negotiating the terms of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), GFG Alliance chairman Sanjeev Gupta is moving ahead with his renewable energy plans in South Australia.
On Wednesday, Gupta revealed fresh details of his renewable energy investment plans for the Whyalla region, with the 280-megawatt Cultana Solar Project the centrepiece of a $US1 billion ($1.38 billion) investment program by his majority-owned renewables company SIMEC ZEN Energy.
The Cultana solar project will feature 780,000 solar panels generating 600GWh of energy per year, enough to power 96,000 homes, and according to Mr Gupta will help bring down energy prices.
The plans also include a separate co-generation plant at the steelworks using waste gas, and pumped hydro projects at the nearby Middleback Range mining operations that supply feedstock to the steelworks.
Gupta’s GFG Alliance last year bought the Whyalla steelworks out of administration and has a controlling stake in renewable energy company ZEN Energy, which in December signed a contract to supply the South Australian government’s electricity needs.
Other projects in Gupta’s energy blueprint include the lithium-ion battery, expanded solar farms, a co-generation scheme to power his Whyalla steelworks using waste gas and pumped hydro projects earmarked for the Middleback Ranges.
“Today’s event is symbolic of our desire to develop and invest in new-generation energy assets that will bring down Australia’s electricity prices to competitive levels again, as well as our commitment to local and regional Australia,” Gupta said as he visited the site near Whyalla on Wednesday.
Gupta said while coal and other fossil-fuels would play an important role in Australia’s energy transition, renewables offered the best future for energy-intensive industries.
While Gupta’s company had initially committed to building 1GW of large-scale solar-plus-storage in and around Whyalla, he later told the audience at the Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition (AES 2018) that the scope of GFG’s investments in renewable energy across Australia could increase to as much as 10GW – keeping in line with the company’s industrial growth.
“All of these projects will not only improve reliability and greatly reduce the cost of electricity in our own operations, they will also provide competitive sources of power for other industrial and commercial users, while at the same time playing a key role in the market’s transition towards renewables,” he said.
The Cultana Solar Farm will generate 350 jobs during construction and 10 ongoing operation and maintenance positions.
Development approval is expected later this year before works begin in the first quarter of 2019.