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Rio Tinto’s Weipa bauxite operations in Queensland. Image: Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has contracted EDL to build, own and operate a 4MW (megawatt) solar plant and 4MW battery storage at its Weipa bauxite operation in far north Queensland.

The solar farm will more than triple the local electricity network’s solar generation capacity with construction scheduled for later in 2021 and completion by late-2022.

The operation currently has another 1.6MW solar farm in place which is also run by EDL.

Rio Tinto aluminium Pacific bauxite operations general manager Michelle Elvy said the company will continue to build on its focus of sustainable mining and returning investment to the communities in which it operates.

“The new solar farm and battery storage at Weipa will help us lower our carbon footprint and diesel use in a reliable way,” Elvy said.

“The original Weipa solar farm was the largest solar facility at an off-grid Australian mine site at the time it was built, and it played an important role in showing the viability of renewable energy systems in remote locations.

“The new solar farm and battery storage system is part of Rio Tinto’s group-wide commitment to reduce emissions across our operations. There is clearly more work to be done, but projects like this are an important part of meeting our climate targets.”

The new solar farm will also provide a portion of power to the local township.

The effect on the Weipa township will be the equivalent of taking 3750 cars off the road, reducing diesel consumption by seven million litres per year and carbon emissions by 20,000 tonnes per year.

EDL chief executive officer James Harman said his company looked forward to displaying its knowledge in hybrid renewable solutions.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue supporting Rio Tinto to reduce carbon emissions,” Harman said.

“EDL will be leveraging expertise from our hybrid renewable energy systems around Australia to deliver clean and reliable energy for Rio Tinto’s operations and the local community.”

EDL also operates a hybrid renewable energy system at Gold Fields’ Agnew gold mine in Western Australia.

The Agnew microgrid delivers up to 70 per cent of the operation’s power requirements with 56MW of solar, wind, battery, gas and diesel power.