Construction has begun on the Sun Metals Corporation solar farm, which is expected to be completed in early 2018 and fully commissioned and providing renewable energy into the refinery’s energy mix by April 2018.
The 125 MW project, which will see 1.3 million solar panels installed at the Sun Metals zinc refinery in North Queensland, will create 210 solar powered jobs, read a release by the Queensland Government.
The project represents a landmark case with Korean-owned Sun Metals as the first major energy user to source some of its electricity needs from renewables.
“Upon completion Sun Metals will be the largest single site user of renewable energy,” said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk after touring the project site.
The refinery’s decision to build its own PV array serves shows that the large-scale industry can rely on solar as replacement for its current power solutions.
“The SMC Solar Farm investment of $199 million is the first step in Korea Zinc ensuring the long term viability of the existing refinery and also underpinning the potential for its expansion using world class new technology, with an investment decision due in late 2017,” said Sun Metals Chief Executive Officer Yun Choi, adding that Sun Metals produce 225,000 tons of zinc per annum using over 900,000 mWh of electricity per year.
“An expanded refinery would see an additional $267 million invested and is expected to support up to 827 construction jobs during peak construction and an additional 100 permanent refinery workers once operational, all within North Queensland,” Choi added.
Aside from heralding the industrial sector’s potential shift to renewable energy, the solar farm will also act as a hedge against extreme price spikes in Queensland’s fossil-fuel dominated electricity market.