The South Australian state government is to provide a $10 million loan to GFG Alliance CEO Sanjeev Gupta, whose company SIMEC ZEN Energy intends to build the world’s largest battery storage facility in Port Augusta.
While no timeline was given for completion, the 120 megawatts/140 megawatt hours storage facility would be larger than the battery built by Tesla in Jamestown last year.
Gupta’s GFG Alliance acquired a majority stake in battery storage and clean energy company ZEN Energy in September last year, later renamed to SIMEC ZEN Energy, with the intention to deliver cheaper power to the Whyalla steelworks, which he acquired as part of the buyout of the former Arrium business.
London-based GFG Alliance purchased the Arrium steelworks and mining operations at Whyalla in July last year and announced immediately that it planned to lower production costs by brining in renewable energy sources.
Gupta argued that a switch to green energy was critical to save the Whyalla steelworks and underpin the future of major steel plants in NSW and Victoria.
The rollout of solar is now targeting more than 1GW in South Australia alone, to tap into the state’s “extraordinary solar resource”, according to Liam Reid, the head of project development at SIMEC Energy.
The scale of Gupta’s ambition is enormous in the Australian context, and particularly significant given the fact that it is being driven by one of the country’s biggest energy consumers.
The rollout has already started with an offer to the company’s 6,000 employees in Australia to put solar and batteries in their homes in exchange for salary sacrifice.
There are also plans for 40MW of rooftop solar installations at 80 different company locations around Australia, including a 10MW facility at the Newcastle Wire Mill.
On top of this, GFG plans its first 80MW large-scale solar farm near Whyalla – to supply the local steel works – and this is expected to get final investment approval within the next couple of months.
All of these initial installations will be “behind the meter”, meaning they will supply only the employees, the industrial facilities, or the Whyalla Steelworks. These installations will be followed by yet more solar at Whyalla – up to 200MW of grid connected solar on GFG land – and then elsewhere, and by battery and pumped hydro storage installations.