The Australian mining industry is emerging as an unexpected leader in the global effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Driven by cost-efficiencies and a desire to green operations, Australian miners are leading the adoption of clean energy technologies and exceeding the emission reduction targets set by Australian and global governments.
Nextracker’s involvement with the Australian mining industry and off-grid projects started in 2015. Working with Juwi Renewable Energy, Nextracker supplied Sandfire’s Degrussa Mine site with 10.5 MW of Horizon trackers. Commissioned in 2016, the Degrussa solar farm was the largest integrated off-grid solar farm in Australia, providing 20 per cent of the mines’ power requirements and offsetting over 12.000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
In 2019, Nextracker supplied 4 MW of trackers for the award-winning Agnew Hybrid Renewable Microgrid—Australia’s largest hybrid renewable microgrid combining wind, solar, battery, gas and diesel power, which reduced the mine’s carbon footprint by 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in its first year of operations.
Nextracker works closely with customers to ensure our tracker technology matches their production, environmental, and safety requirements. Before beginning the 3 MW project for Image Resources at Boonanarring Mineral Sands Mine in North Perth, Nextracker was involved in the engineering, planning and design to ensure an efficient and economical installation.
Fast forward to 2021, when we saw the quantity and size of tracker projects at mine sites grow steeply. Last year, Nextracker was awarded supply contracts totalling 130 MW for end-users such as BHP, Rio Tinto, Gold Fields, Iluka, Strandline Resources, Galena, and Pilbara Minerals. The largest was at Rio Tinto’s most technologically advanced mine operation to date, Guddai Darri in Western Australia. The 105-hectare solar plant will consist of around 100,000 panels mounted on Nextracker’s flagship NX Horizon™ smart solar tracking solution.
Australian mining sites are typically characterised by remote, dusty, and extreme climatic conditions. With most mining operations running 24/7, system performance, uptime and energy security are paramount to ensure stable, reliable power to maintain a mine’s productivity. Nextracker’s independent row architecture and smart tracker control system enables operators to monitor row-level data to maximise energy production and system uptime.
The pipeline of renewable energy mining projects in Australian mining continues to grow, and so does the need for technology to capture more yield. If fact, of the 19 projects featured by Energy & Mines recently, five featured Nextracker technology, with many more yet to be announced.
The growth of off-grid renewables and the challenges the mining industry faces, were discussed at a Rystad webinar featuring Nextracker, Rio Tinto, Total Eren, Jacobs, Bechtel, and Longi. To hear key thoughts from industry leaders on Australia’s readiness to engineer off-grid renewable microgrids and megaprojects, watch the webinar here.
Peter “Pete” Wheale is the vice president of sales for Nextracker’s Australia and Asia Pacific regional markets. As a first-mover in the market introducing single-axis tracking technology to the solar industry, Pete has built a strong local team and is commercially responsible for establishing Nextracker as the no.1 market leader in the country, with over five gigawatts of tracker systems installed on utility-scale and commercial & industrial solar power plants throughout the country.