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BHP signs deal with W.A.’s biggest solar farm to supply half of refinery’s power needs

Global mining giant BHP has signed a deal with the Merredin solar farm to supply up to half of the electricity needs at the company’s West Kwinana refinery in Western Australian.

The 10-year contract – which can be extended – came into force this week, and BHP Nickel says it will allow it to cut emissions from electricity use at the refinery by up to 50 per cent, of a total of 364,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

It continues the big switch from fossil fuel to renewables at BHP’s mining operations across the globe. It has already dumped a billion dollar coal contract as it switches its Chile copper mining operations to 100 per cent renewables, and has signed solar and wind energy deals to reduce fossil fuel power consumption at its coking coal mines in Queensland.

The possibility of a solar contract for Kwinana West was flagged last year when BHP announced plans for an 18.5MW solar and battery system at Nickel West’s Leinster and Mount Keith operations.

The 100MW AC (132MW DC) Merredin solar is the newest and biggest solar farm in W.A., having been completed in 2020. It was built by Risen Energy (Australia).

“This agreement will bolster current and future Western Australian renewable projects,” said John Zhong, vice general manager at Risen Energy (Australia).

“We look forward to welcoming many more clean energy partnerships to power manufacturing, minerals processing and other Western Australian industries.”

BHP Nickel West’s asset president Eddy Haegel said the deal with the Merredin solar farm will cut the refinery’s electricity bill by up to 20 per cent, as well as cutting missions by 50 per cent.

“Nickel is a future-facing commodity, and sustainable nickel production is essential to meet future demand,” Haegel said. “This contract, the sulphide nature of our nickel deposits, and our integrated value chain increases our position as one of the least carbon intensive nickel miners in the world.”

State energy and mines minister Bill Johnston said the Kwinana nickel refinery is a key contributor to WA’s future battery industry, and is helping global efforts to decarbonise. “The McGowan Government is supportive of mining and resources companies that embrace clean energy solutions,” said Johnston.

Zhong said Risen in looking to grow its solar module supply businesses in Australia and build more projects, and become a major independent power producer in the country. It also owns the Yarranlea solar farm in Queensland and aims to build 2GW of clean energy capacity in Australia.

“We see a bright future ahead as Australia continues to expand its renewable energy market,” he said.


Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of Renew Economy, and is also the founder of One Step Off The Grid and founder/editor of The Driven. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.

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