Fortescue plans for massive Pilbara wind and solar farms

Brandon How

Fortescue Future Industries is preparing to develop a 5.4GW renewable energy hub to power Fortescue mining operations and meet their net-zero emissions target by 2030.

According to documents submitted to the Western Australian (WA) Environmental Protection Authority, the Uaroo Renewable Energy Hub will reduce Fortescue’s carbon dioxide emissions by at least 1.5 million tonnes.

Electricity production of 2.04GW will be split between 340 wind turbines and a further 3.33GW from solar panels.

The hub will be supplemented by a battery storage system with a capacity of 9100MWh, or more than 45 times the capacity of a big battery being installed in Kwinana, just south of Perth.

Pilbara calling: Fortescue is readying the renewables

Stretching across more than 61,000 ha of the Pilbara in the north of Western Australia, the hub is located across the Uaroo and Emu Creek pastoral stations about 170km west of the Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG) Eliwana Mine Site.

The hub will have a peak capacity of close to that of the entire Southwest Interconnected System of WA, the state’s main electricity grid. Its capacity is 13.5 times greater than the Northwest Interconnected System.

However, FFI estimates that peak wind generation will occur 40 per cent of the time and less than 30 per cent for solar. The project is large enough to provide the firm’s mining operations with reliable power.

Following the necessary approvals, construction on the plant will begin and take up to seven years. During construction a temporary camp will have capacity for 1600 personnel, which will be converted to a permanent self-sufficient camp to support up to 100 people upon completion.

FFI said the operational lifespan of the asset could be longer than the 42 years left on the firm’s land tenure.

This proposed development comes after the WA government announced last November its intention to reform the land administration act to allow renewable energy production on land previously reserved as pasture.

The proposed hub is located within the Thalanyji Native Title Determination Area. FFI has been consulting the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation since early 2021. A Heritage Agreement is currently being negotiated between the two parties.

The project is still in the study phase, with the investment and development timeline to be determined at a later date. Public consultation opened on Wednesday and will close on February 15.

FFI chief executive officer Julie Shuttleworth said that further investigation and consultation with stakeholders will take place before development takes place.

“Western Australia is well-positioned to participate in the global renewable energy transition,” Ms Shuttleworth said.

“FFI is exploring the potential development of a renewable energy hub at Uaroo in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. This will support Fortescue’s industry leading commitment to achieve carbon neutrality for Scope 1 and 2 emissions in its mining operations by 2030.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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