First Solar, Rio Tinto and Ingenero are developing the Weipa Solar Photovoltaic Project in Queensland, Australia. The Commonwealth Government made an initial commitment of $3.5 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to be followed by an allocation of up to $7.8 million for the project’s second phase.
For the Weipa bauxite mine, solar PV complements the existing base-load generation by providing electricity in times of peak demand and reducing the amount of diesel fuel used.
First Solar will leverage its expertise in utility-scale solar grid integration. Combined with Ingenero’s design, development and integration experience, the project will generate electricity for Rio Tinto Alcan’s Weipa bauxite mine, processing facilities and township on the Western Cape York Peninsula.
The addition of renewable energy will complement the existing diesel generation at Weipa.
The project will have an initial capacity of 1.7 MW with the potential to expand by an additional 5 MW after the commissioning of the initial phase. The first phase of the project will generate sufficient electricity to offset up to 20 percent of the daytime electricity demand, while reducing the diesel consumption.
With completion scheduled for late 2014, First Solar will supply its advanced thin-film PV modules and other balance of system components, in addition to providing operation and maintenance services for the duration of the project.
RTA will purchase the electricity under a 15 year power purchase agreement (PPA).