Ambitious renewable energy plans for the industrial town of Whyalla, in the state of South Australia, are moving forward with the approval to develop the 280 MW Cultana Solar Farm. The PV project is one of the developments under a $1 billion renewable energy initiative launched by Simec Energy Australia, part of U.K. steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance.
The AUD $350 million ($242.9 million) Cultana Solar Farm will boast 600 GWh of energy generation per year — enough to power almost 100,000 average homes — drawn from 780,000 solar panels. It is expected to break ground in October and generate 350 jobs during construction, as well as 10 full-time positions upon completion. Construction will take 12 to 15 months.
The project received the green light from South Australian Minister for Planning Stephan Knoll, under condition that the developer reduces the impact it may have on native vegetation in the area. While construction of the solar farm is not expected to impact the Whyalla Conservation Park, Simec Energy Australia will need to submit environmental management plans for both the construction and operation of the project before initiating construction. It will also facilitate progressive revegetation at the site.
At the launch of the 1 GW renewable energy program last year, the company confirmed that its second solar project under the program, in the vicinity of the Cultana Solar Farm, was already in development. It said that the two projects would together make up one of Australia’s largest solar farms. On the occasion, Gupta said that even larger projects would follow in other Australian states.
Other projects within Gupta’s program include cogeneration at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas, trailblazing pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations, and a massive lithium‐ion battery (120 MW/140 MWh), which would surpass the 110 MW/ 129 MWh Tesla big battery at the Hornsdale Power Reserve in terms of size.
The pumped hydro project in the Middleback Range on the Eyre Peninsula was one of 12 projects shortlisted under the Australian Liberal-National Coalition government’s Underwriting New Generation Investment scheme, which included six renewable pumped hydro projects, five gas projects and one coal upgrade project in the state of New South Wales.