Red dirt goes green: QRC members triple green power in FNQ

Click here for Rio Tinto’s media statement.

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed member company Rio Tinto’s decision to build a new solar farm and battery storage project in the state’s far north.

The project will generate even more renewable energy for Rio’s bauxite operations at Weipa – tripling the local electricity network’s solar generation capacity.

Under the plans, QRC member company EDL has been contracted for the build with construction of the whole project expected to be complete by late 2022.

QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said Rio’s move to incorporate more renewables into its operations and boost local access to green power was part of a resource industry-wide commitment to lowering emissions.

“Resources companies understand they have an important role to play in lowering global emissions to meet the challenges of climate change and the expectations of the community,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Investments in renewable energy projects like this is great news for Queensland and will help our industry lower its global carbon footprint, and add value to the Weipa community in a reliable, sustainable and cost-effective way.”

Rio Tinto already operates a 1.6-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Weipa which generates 20 percent of the town’s daytime energy demand, saving up to 2.3 million litres of diesel and 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

“This will be the biggest battery on the Western Cape – and that’s great news for expanding Rio Tinto’s use of solar energy,” Mr Macfarlane said.

The new plan announced today will extend the project’s capabilities to a 4 MW solar capacity, and the 4MW/4MWh battery will provide approximately 11 gigawatt hours of energy annually.

In a statement, Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Bauxite Operations General Manager Michelle Elvy said the expansion of the company’s renewable energy capabilities will further reduce diesel consumption at its Weipa operations by around 7 million litres per year, and lower its annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 20,000 tonnes – the equivalent of taking more than 3,750 cars off the road.

Mr Macfarlane said renewables provide an important new source of long-term demand for Queensland’s minerals.

“There’s two and half times more copper in solar PV per kilowatt hour of generation capacity compared with conventional thermal generation fleet.

That’s good news for Queensland’s copper miners – we’re growing our own demand,” he said.

“Queensland’s economy was built on reliable access to low-cost energy and it remains a vital ingredient for the success of the resources sector.

“As we manage the transition to our low emission future, QRC members are showing how to ensure that Queensland’s energy mix remains affordable, and reliable while still driving down emissions.”

“Today’s announcement from Rio Tinto and EDL ticks all the boxes – lower emissions, more jobs, and more demand for Queensland’s minerals. Win. Win. Win.”

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