Chinese power group Shanghai Electric will handle engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for the 280 MW Cultana Solar Farm that Simec Energy Australia, a company under UK steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, is developing. The PV project is part of Gupta’s ambitious renewable energy plans for the South Australian industrial town of Whyalla.
The A$350 million ($34.7 million) Cultana Solar Farm is expected to produce around 600 GWh of energy per year, drawn from 780,000 solar panels that will power GFG’s Whyalla Steelworks and a range of key government and commercial customers.
“Cultana Solar Farm is an ambitious project that will deliver globally competitive renewable energy on a large scale to power-heavy industry,” Gupta said. “It is a great step forward in our vision to revitalize industry and we look forward to working with our partners to bring our renewables projects to life.”
Cultana is the first project of Simec Energy Australia’s $1 billion, 1 GW dispatchable renewable energy program in South Australia. It is expected to play a key role in the development of the 10 Mtpa Whyalla Next-Gen steel plant project and GFG’S industry revitalization strategy.
At the program’s launch last year, the company confirmed that its second large-scale solar project near the Cultana Solar Farm was already in development. On the occasion, Gupta said that even larger projects would follow in other states, as he announced his ambition to invest in up to 10 GW of large-scale solar and other renewables projects across Australia in support of industry.
Other projects in Gupta’s South Australia plan include cogeneration at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas and pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations. Gupta also aims to install a massive lithium‐ion battery (120 MW/140 MWh) in the state, 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 ruling 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.
The Cultana Solar Farm received development approval from the South Australian government in May, under the condition that the developer will reduce the impact the project could have on native vegetation in the area. It is expected to break ground in October and generate around 350 jobs throughout construction, as well as 10 full-time positions upon completion. Construction will take 12 to 15 months.
“Shanghai Electric have embodied the best form of partnership, working hand in glove with our people in Whyalla to develop the project,” Gupta said. “We are confident of their performance, to deliver this project on time, and on budget, to the highest standards, supporting our commitment to the creation of hundreds of new local jobs in South Australia.”
Shanghai Electric jumped into solar in 2016 by acquiring a major stake in German PV equipment maker Manz. It also made headlines last year when it revealed plans to acquire a 51% stake in the Jiangsu Zhongneng unit of GCL Poly, China’s largest polysilicon maker at that point. However, the deal fell through amid market jitters caused by the Chinese government’s abrupt decision to rein in public subsidies for PV.
The Chinese company’s global EPC expertise includes the completion of a 700 MW concentrated solar power project — said to be the world’s largest CSP project and the largest single-site solar park in the world — based on the independent power producer (IPP) model. The plant is the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Solar Park in the desert near Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.