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SIMEC ZEN Energy, a subsidiary of British conglomerate GFG Alliance, has launched a US$1 billion investment plan to install 1 GW dispatchable renewable energy in South Australia.
The program includes a 280 MW solar farm in Cultana, cogeneration at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas; the world’s largest lithium‐ion battery; and pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations.
The first to be developed is the solar project, with the company having already commenced preliminary consultation discussions with the local community. Development approval is expected to be secured in the fourth quarter of this year, and construction to begin in the first quarter of 2019.
The Cultana plant will consist of 780,000 solar panels installed over 1,100 hectares, which will generate 600 GWh a year, enough to power almost 100,000 average homes and offset 492,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Together with another solar project in development to be built nearby, it will be one of Australia’s largest solar farms.
SIMEC ZEN Energy has not disclosed any details of the other projects mentioned. However, in March this year, the South Australian government approved an AUD10 million (US$7.2 million) grant through its Renewable Technology Fund for a 120 MW battery storage facility proposed by SIMEC, to be connected to a new solar park to be installed at the Whyalla steelworks.
Furthermore, in February 2018, GFG Alliance was awarded AUD500,000 (US$361,334) grant from the Renewable Technology Fund for pre-feasibility studies of a 90 MW pumped hydro storage project proposed to be located at the site of a disused mine in the South Middleback Ranges, near Whyalla. This funding was matched by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
Thus, it seem reasonable to presume that these two projects are part of the new US$1 billion investment plan.
In late 2017 SIMEC ZEN Energy was awarded a contract to supply all of the South Australian Government’s electricity requirements, and in May 2018 it was awarded an electricity supply contract for the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy Joint Purchasing Group. The company has not disclosed whether these new renewable generation projects will help meet its supply obligations from these contracts.