Australia’s 125 MW Sun Metals refinery solar farm officially opens

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As power bills continue to hurt bottom lines, Australia’s large businesses are actively moving toward cheaper renewable energy. The project that heralded this radical shift last year was officially opened this week.

The opening of the 125 MW solar farm at the Sun Metals zinc refinery, which is expected to cover one third of the company energy needs, was attended by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“Industry is getting right behind the solar industry combining the two to help with their power generation,“ Palaszczuk said at the opening.

The Sun Metals Solar Farm is a landmark case with the Korean-owned company as the first major energy user to source some of its electricity needs from renewables, and develop its own project, rather than opt for a corporate PPA.

Power-intensive industries have since continued their transition to renewables with a number of major PPAs, such as the Bluescope Steel or Cartlon United Breweries deals, and the launch of a colossal 1 GW renewable energy program by SIMEC Zen Energy, the Australian energy arm of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, at its first of many renewable energy projects planned for South Australian industrial town Whyalla – the 280 MW Cultana Solar Farm.

Currently the largest single-site industrial consumer of renewables in the country and one of Queensland’s biggest energy consumers, Sun Metals is viewed as the bellwether for the renewable energy investment trend.

“What we see here is a sign of things to come in the future. Queensland is perfectly position to capitalize on one of our greatest strengths, which is our Sun. I think that, through the leadership of Sun Metals, we will see more industry across Queensland investing in solar into the future,“ Palaszczuk said.

The project broke ground last May, creating 210 solar-powered jobs, with WA-based RCR Tomlinson taking over the EPC duties and First Solar supplying 1.3 million of its thin-film CdTe modules. It started generating to the grid in May.

Sun Metals joined another innovative project this year, known as the Townsville virtual power plant.

Touted as Australia’s first large scale operating virtual power plant, the cloud-based, load control state-wide network managed by Yurika, an arm of publicly-owned Energy Queensland, welcomed Sun Metals and agribusiness company MSF Sugar as foundation customers in February.