With the aim of reducing energy costs and enhancing reliability, investments in a major new solar farm is being made by Australia’s biggest steel company.
The largest ever solar purchasing agreement in Australia was signed recently between Bluescope and ESCO Power.
The construction of a 500,000-panel solar farm at Finley in the NSW Riverina region will essentially be underwritten by the steelmaker according to the agreement.
About 20 per cent of the energy needs of the steel maker would be met with the generated solar power, said Bluescope chief executive of steel products John Nowlan.
Energy reliability and affordability would be enhanced at its Port Kembla steelworks by this, he said.
“As you can imagine, we’re a large user of electricity. What we’re balancing is the need for reliable power, low-cost power and clean power, so this is a step in the right direction on all those fronts,” Nowlan said.
Solar would form a crucial part of the energy mix even as the company also relied on other sources of power to get round the clock uninterrupted supply of power, Nowlan said.
“We’ve been working very hard over the last few years to make sure that our steelmaking operations here in the Illawarra in particular are competitive,” he said.
“Over the last couple of years our electricity costs have more than doubled, and they’ve gone up by something like $50 million over the last 12 months or so.
“That’s a significant increase in our costs, and what we’re trying to do is put downward pressure on our energy costs, and this arrangement helps us to do that.”
There is a growing popularity of power-purchasing agreements with power generated from solar energy. The agreement between Tesla and a major solar farm in Queensland last year is an example.
The decision of steel maker was a good example of the participation of the private sector in reducing the rising costs of power, said NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin.
“Power-purchasing agreements are a way of the future and this one, the largest one ever signed, is something that we really all should be very happy about,” Mr Harwin said.
“I would encourage more industrial and commercial users to look at doing this in the future.”
NSW inland has recently seen development of large-scale solar farms. This would lead to energy transition together with hydro and wind power, Harwin said.
“There’s no doubt the cost structure of renewables is changing. Once upon a time it was a very expensive technology. It’s now becoming very fast the cheapest new build,” Mr Harwin said.
“But it is of course intermittent, so it needs to be backed up by firming capacity, either by storage or other means.
“I’m confident that we’re in a good place going into that [COAG] meeting, and that all of the other state energy ministers, no matter which party they’re from, are approaching this exercise with good faith.
(Adapted from ABC.net.au)