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Australia’s Biggest Solar Farm Nearly Complete


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Sun Metals, a Korean-owned zinc refiner based in Townsville, has nearly completed its 125-megawatt solar farm, which will supply power to the refinery. 

Due to open at the end of May, the solar project in Townsville is proving that renewable and traditional mining sectors can work together constructively to help slash substantial power costs. The project was initiated to supply power to the machinery but once operational, will produce enough energy to sell electricity to the grid.

Sun Metals has nearly completed construction on its solar farm located at its refinery, 15km south of Townsville.

“Pending any unforeseen events, we’re still on target to finish construction of our $200m solar farm. Once completed, it will be one of the biggest large-scale solar farms (125MWac) in Australia,” Sun Metals Chief Executive Officer Yun Choi tells Jobsite. “Sun Metals is commissioning the plant at the moment via a staged approach, and we are hopeful to have the solar farm operating at full capacity by the end of May.

“Sun Metals is commissioning the plant at the moment, and we are hopeful to have the solar farm operating at full capacity by the end of May. 

“One of the main reasons we’re building the solar farm is to provide our own electricity to the refinery, and to give us the opportunity to sell the electricity out to the grid when it’s beneficial to do so,” says Choi.  

Based on projections and studies around usage, the solar farm is expected to deliver about 30 per cent of the Zinc refinery’s electricity needs. Sun Metals needs 900,000-megawatt hours of electricity to produce 225,000 tonnes of zinc each year.

“Once the solar farm is operational, it will enable the refinery to be the largest single-site renewable consumer in Australia,” says Choi. 

“The solar farm will be one of a kind as it will directly power a large industrial user and export electricity into the National Electricity Market—so I think that makes it pretty innovative.”

The development of the Sun Metals solar farm will see an additional capacity of solar energy available to the National Electricity market, which will benefit the State’s renewable energy objectives as well as Sun Metals.  

“The development of the Sun Metals Corporation solar farm will see an additional 124-megawatt capacity of generation available to the National Electricity Market, underpinning the Queensland Government’s solar energy development policy and a marked reduction in the carbon footprint of the refinery’s operations,” explains Choi.

Sun Metals is also looking toward the future growth of the refinery. It will bring about hundreds of future jobs to the Townsville region, in addition to hundreds of millions being added to the economy of the city.

It is expected to support up to 827 construction jobs during peak construction.

“We are still working hard toward verifying the business case of the expansion of the refinery,” says Choi. “If we go ahead, the expanded refinery would see an additional $300 million invested right here in Townsville. It is expected to support up to 827 construction jobs during peak construction, along with a significant increase in permanent workers at the refinery once operational. 

“There is still further work to demonstrate the business case of the expansion, including plant design, chemical engineering, and infrastructure requirements. Part of this work includes implementing the new cutting-edge refining technology that is now up and running at our parent company’s plant in Onsan, Korea,” he continues.  

“The expansion would also see an increase in economic activities for Townsville, especially in Townsville Port activities, uplift for local suppliers and contractors. It will also, via the use of new refining technology, reduce water usage and environmental footprint.”

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