Fortescue buys cattle stations for 5GW renewable energy hub


From pv magazine Australia

According to the ABCAustralian mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has continued his land grab in Western Australia to generate renewable energy with the purchase of three cattle stations in the state’s northwest. 

Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) purchased Emu Creek Station in the Pilbara and Ella Valla Station in the Gascoyne for undisclosed sums. The sale of Yalbago Station (also in the Gascoyne) has yet to be finalized. The stations will continue to run cattle, but their primary function will be to generate renewable energy to power Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG) Eliwana iron ore mine 170 miles west of Emu Creek Station. 

According to the environmental documents FFI lodged with the WA Environmental Protection Authority for its Uaroo Renewable Energy Hub in the Pilbara region, the hub will consist of 3.33 GW of solar and 2.04 GW of wind spread across 10,000 hectares. In addition, the hub would also include a 9.1 GWh battery.  

The hub is set to utilise a 220 kV transmission line that would connect Uaroo’s main substation to a substation at the Eliwana mine site, though this transmission line was not included in the EPA submission. 

“What the greater Perth area would be using on a really, really hot day with all of the air conditioning on would be something like the energy that we’d be hoping to generate from this development,” FFI’s director-western states Maia Schweizer told ABC. “[Ella Valla and Yalbago Stations] are not so much supporting the decarbonisation of FMG, but they could be supporting the export of green energy in some other form, so for example green hydrogen or green ammonia.”

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FMG said the Uaroo Renewable Energy Hub will provide renewable energy to power its mining operations in the Pilbara and is a critical component of it achieve net zero emissions from its mining operations by 2030. The miner said the renewable electricity would eventually eliminate its reliance on gas and diesel-fired generation and diesel-fueled mobile plants such as haul trucks and trains which currently consume hundreds of millions of litres of fuel annually.

It is expected the Uaroo project would reduce the miner’s current annual carbon emissions of 2.2 million tonnes by at least 1.5 million tons by the end of this decade.

The renewable generation assets will be integrated with the company’s Pilbara Energy Connect program, which includes a AUD 250 million ($186.9 million) transmission project that will install 275 km of high voltage transmission lines connecting Fortescue’s mining operations in the region.

Interestingly, FFI isn’t done with its land acquisitions. “We have our eyes on a few other areas where that wind and sun is really high quality,” said Schweizer. 

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