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First Solar, Rio Tinto and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced Australia’s first commercial diesel displacement solar plant

Posted 29 September 2015 12:24 AM by First Solar

Australia’s first commercial diesel displacement solar plant starts operation

Groundbreaking solar photovoltaic project supplies renewable energy to remote mining operation proving commercial model for PV-diesel projects


First Solar, Rio Tinto and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced Australia’s first commercial diesel displacement solar plant has successfully commenced commercial operation at a remote mine. In this video, First Solar's Regional Manager for Asia Pacific Jack Curtis, discusses the Weipa Solar Plant which is generating electricity for Rio Tinto’s Weipa bauxite mine, processing facilities and township on the Western Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia. 

At peak output, the 1.7 megawatt (MW) capacity solar plant has the capacity to generate sufficient electricity to support up to 20 percent of the township’s daytime electricity demand.

The energy from the solar plant will help reduce the diesel usage at Weipa’s power stations and save up to 600,000 liters of diesel each year. This will reduce Weipa’s greenhouse gas emissions by around 1,600 tons per year, equivalent to removing around 700 cars.

The solar plant is expected to produce an average of 2800 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. The electricity from the 18,000 advanced First Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules that have been connected to Rio Tinto’s existing mini-grid will be purchased by Rio Tinto under a 15-year power purchase agreement. 

First Solar’s FuelSmart™ solutions combine PV generation with a fossil fuel engine generator to provide optimal fuel savings while maintaining system reliability.

“It is already widely acknowledged that solar electricity is typically cheaper than diesel-powered electricity, particularly in remote locations,” said Jack Curtis, First Solar Vice President for Business Development – Asia Pacific. “The significance of the Weipa Solar Plant is that it provides the opportunity to demonstrate that PV-diesel hybrid projects can also be as reliable as stand-alone diesel-powered generation.” 

“In recent years, attention has been focused on the technical challenges of high-penetration PV-diesel hybrids. At the Weipa Solar Plant, First Solar is seeking to deliver a reliable electricity supply without diverting capital costs away from Rio Tinto’s critical mine operations. Proving this commercial model has the potential to be a watershed moment for the diesel hybrid application globally,” said Curtis.


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