The 280 MW Cultana Solar Farm marks the first project under SIMEC Zen Energy’s landmark 1bn renewable energy initiative, by UK steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta.
SIMEC Zen Energy is a unit of the Gupta group’s commodity conglomerate GFG Alliance.
The program was launched at an official ceremony attended by South Australian Premier, Steven Marshall, Whyalla Mayor, Lyn Breuer, and SIMEC Zen Energy Chairman, and Sanjeev Gupta himself.
Addressing the ceremony, Gupta expressed his belief on there beings a great future for energy‐intensive industries in Australia– noting that the 1 GW program launch is the first step in GFG leading the country’s industrial transition towards more competitive energy.
The 250 MW Cultana Solar Farm boasts an 600 GWh of energy generation per year – enough to power almost 100,000 average homes – drawn from 780,000 solar panels. SIMEC Zen expects to get development approval in the fourth quarter of this year, with construction commencing in the first quarter of 2019.
“Today’s event is symbolic of our desire to develop and invest in new‐generation energy assets that will bring down Australia’s electricity prices to competitive levels again, as well as our commitment to local and regional Australia,” Gupta stated.
Other projects included within the program include: Cogeneration at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas; trailblazing pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations; and the world’s largest lithium‐ion battery (120 MW/140 MWh), which would surpass the 110 MW/ 129 MWh Tesla battery at the Hornsdale Power Reserve in terms of size.
“All of these projects will not only improve reliability and greatly reduce the cost of electricity in our own operations, they will also provide competitive sources of power for other industrial and commercial users, while at the same time playing a key role in the market’s transition towards renewables,” elaborated Gupta further.
So far, the company has inked a 15-year PPA with Victoria’s 100 MW Numurkah Solar Farm to support commercial and industrial customers in Victoria, including the Melbourne-based Laverton steelworks. It has also started developing its own large-scale solar projects.
The company also confirmed that its second solar project under the program in the vicinity of the Cultana Solar Farm is already in development. It noted that the two projects will make one of Australia’s largest solar farms. According to Gupta, even larger projects are set to follow.
“All of these projects will not only improve reliability and greatly reduce the cost of electricity in our own operations, they will also provide competitive sources of power for other industrial and commercial users, while at the same time playing a key role in the market’s transition towards renewables,” he stated.
GFG Alliance bought South Australia’s Whyalla steelworks last year and then acquired a majority stake in Australia’s energy company Zen Energy to form a joint venture under the name SIMEC Zen Energy. The 1 GW renewable energy program was first announced last October.