Whyalla steel city goes green with 1GW of solar and storage

UK billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has announced massive investments in solar and storage that will knock 40 per cent off electricity costs for his newly acquired Australian steel business.

Gupta said on Monday he would build 1GW of dispatchable renewables – a suite of technologies including solar, battery storage, pumped hydro and demand management – in and around Whyalla, where his major steel plant is located.

He also plans to use varying mixes renewables and storage to power the company’s steel operations in Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle, which he says will be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy.

The first phase of development will see a proposed 80MW solar farm at Whyalla expanded to 200MW and completed by the first quarter of 2019. This will then be joined by a 100MW/100MWh battery storage facility and 100MW of demand response at the Whyalla steel works and other sites.

Both of these will be built by 2019, and by 2020 there will also be a 120MW/600MWh pumped hydro storage facility at one disused iron ore mine pit in the Middleback Ranges that used to serve the steelworks.

The investment marks the largest of its kind in Australia, and a new way of thinking about energy. The start of the first phase will not depend on outside or third party contracts, because most of the demand will come from the steelworks, although supply will be offered to other parties.

The work will be carried out through Zen Energy, the Australia renewable and battery storage company in which Gupta’s Liberty group bought a majority stake soon after the Whyalla purchase.

The combined impact of the proposal – if fully implemented – is likely to take South Australia well beyond 70 per cent share in wind and solar.

Top image via Wikipedia.

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Giles Parkinson