solar panels in desert

BHP and TransAlta have jointly delivered a new solar farm in the Northern Goldfields, which is set to help BHP reduce its scope 2 emissions at its Nickel West northern operations by 12 per cent. 

The Northern Goldfields Solar and Battery Storage Facility is one of the world’s largest off-grid mining solar and battery energy storage systems and features about 70,000 solar panels across 90h of land.

The initiative, which will replace power currently generated from diesel and gas, is set to be a significant step towards BHP’s aim to decarbonise its operations by 30 per cent by 2030.

The facility includes a 27.4MW solar farm at Mt Keith, and a 10.7MW solar farm and 10.1MW battery at Leinster, which is integrated into TransAlta’s Northern Goldfields remote power grid.

Construction on the facility began in 2022, creating more than 100 direct and indirect jobs in the Goldfields and Perth regions, and will support ongoing employment during operations.

BHP Australia President, Geraldine Slattery, said that the facility was a significant step in delivering BHP’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, and helps it achieve its goal of being one of the most sustainable nickel providers in the world.

“Renewables are increasingly powering BHP operations around the globe and this facility – the first we have built on one of our sites – is another step forward in our plans to reduce our operational greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030, from 2020 levels,” Ms Slattery said. 

“Nickel is in high demand for batteries and electric vehicles, and this progress is part of our commitment to delivering more sustainable, lower carbon product to our customers.”

BHP Nickel West Asset President, Jessica Farrell, said that the initiative was one of the many ways Nickel West was reducing its operational emissions and that it was also considering wind farms in the northern and southern Goldfields.

“It’s fantastic to see the Northern Goldfields Solar and Battery Storage Facility switched on. It’s on the back of a team of dedicated engineers, technicians and many others bringing new ideas to the table to support the development and integration of reliable and affordable renewable power to our business,” Ms Farrell said.

“The initiative will help Nickel West reduce scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions at our northern operations by 12 per cent. This will result in an estimated reduction of 54,000t of CO²-e per annum – the equivalent of removing 23,000 combustion engine cars from the road each year.”

TransAlta’s President and CEO, John Kousinioris, said that the company was excited to flick the switch on what was a ground-breaking project for the organisation.

“We are excited to work together with BHP to realise this innovative solution to meet BHP’s renewable electricity needs. This facility represents a first for both companies – it’s BHP’s first on-site, large-scale renewable project globally, and it’s TransAlta’s first renewable energy facility in Australia. It’s also the first time we have combined solar and battery storage to offer a hybrid solution,” Mr Kousinioris said.

“This unique project enabled us to apply the extensive capability and technical knowledge we have to the development of a large-scale facility in a remote part of Western Australia.

“Working under our longstanding relationship with BHP, we were able to collectively solve challenges and break new ground at the same time as playing a part in Western Australia’s exciting and rapidly accelerating transition to a cleaner energy future.”

Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum and Energy, Bill Johnston, congratulated BHP and TransAlta on the renewable energy facility. 

“It’s projects like these that are setting a global standard of what a modern mine looks like, with a big focus on the environment and reducing carbon emissions,” Mr Johnston said. 

“I look forward to seeing what other projects BHP and TransAlta may develop.”

Featured image: The Northern Goldfields solar farm. Image credit: BHP.

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