US photovoltaic (PV) systems supplier First Solar Inc (NASDAQ:FSLR) on Tuesday put into commercial operation a 1.7-MW solar system at a remote mine in Queensland, Australia.
The park started producing electricity for Rio Tinto Alcan’s (RTA) Weipa bauxite mine, processing facilities and township on the Western Cape York Peninsula, which currently use diesel generators. The aluminum company will buy the output of the PV array under a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA).
The 18,000 First Solar PV modules are expected to generate around 2.8 GWh of electricity per year, enough to meet up to 20% of the daytime demand at the site. Equipped with the US company’s FuelSmart solution, which combines PV with fossil fuel engine generators, the installation will also cut local diesel consumption by as much as 600,000 litres annually. This, in turn, will offset roughly 1,600 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said in a press release.
ARENA committed an initial AUD 3.5 million (USD 2.4m/EUR 2.2m) for the country’s first commercial diesel displacement solar project and will provide up to AUD 7.8 million for its second 5-MW stage, which will also include a storage component. “The significance of the Weipa Solar Plant is that it provides the opportunity to demonstrate that PV-diesel hybrid projects can also be as reliable as stand-alone diesel-powered generation,” First Solar Asia-Pacific regional manager, Jack Curtis, noted.
(AUD 1.0 = USD 0.697/EUR 0.620)
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