Western Australia-based Carnegie Clean Energy is proposing to build a 100MW solar farm and a 20MWh battery storage facility to deliver cheaper and more reliable energy to the mining operations in the heart of the state’s historic goldfields.
The ASX-listed Carnegie has signed an agreement with the WA government to develop a lease for the site next to the Mungari Strategic Industrial Area, hoping to develop a project idea that others have looked at but failed to get across the line.
CEO Michael Ottaviano says the eastern Goldfields area – now a source of interest for lithium mining projects, and possibly energy-intensive lithium processing plants – has suffered from “significant electricity supply constraints”.
He said these are best solved by locally based renewables, and the addition of battery storage to ensure supply when the big connectors are cut.
“They are at the end of a long transition line … it is a single line, it’s got loads hundreds of kilometres away from where traditional generation sources, i.e. coal have been, so you get really poor reliability,” Ottaviano said in an interview with the ABC.
He said there is growing interest in off take agreements and at least 50MW of “latent, untapped demand”, and with the emergence of battery storage and lithium supplies “there is a huge opportunity for the state to be beyond mining and be a processor of lithium”.
The former energy infrastructure investment team at Investec, now part of Megawatt Capital, a part owner of the Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia, had sought to develop the 50MW Mungari project as far back as 2013.
The site also attracted interest in 2015 from a small WA-based company Exergy Power, and also from US-based SolarReserve, to develop solar tower and storage facilities. SolarReserve has since contracted to build a 150MW facility, with 8 hours storage, near Port Augusta.
Carnegie’s Ottaviano said although attempts had been made in the past, building renewable energy projects in Australia came with challenges, but the “dramatic falls” in the cost of solar had helped, and issues around land tenure were being addressed.
As this report from Investec’s mooted investment in early 2013 reveal, the cost of solar PV has fallen nearly two thirds in the past five years, and is now well below even where Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted it would be by 2020.
“That’s the biggest change in the market,” Ottaviano told RenewEconomy.
Battery storage costs have also fallen dramatically, and are now being installed in utility scale projects such as the Tesla big battery near Hornsdale, or in various micro-grid projects and adjoining other wind and solar farms.
Ottaviano said the battery storage component would be designed to provide “slanging options” – the final configuration could change with further study.
Carnegie said the solar farm and battery storage facility would be built in the buffer zone of the Mungari Strategic Industrial Area (MSIA), which is located approximately 26km south-west of Kalgoorlie and 13km north-east of Coolgardie.
The WA Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation (JTSI), in collaboration with LandCorp, has awarded it in-principle approval to negotiate a lease for 250ha within the Buffer Zone for the solar farm.
Carnegie says the development of the Mungari solar farm is conditional on reaching suitable lease arrangements with Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage and the results of a Feasibility Study, including consultation with Western Power for grid connection.
Ottaviano told RenewEconomy he hoped to have a lease signed in the next couple of months, and move to final approval and construction towards the end of 2019.
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.