India-born British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has launched a renewable energy facility worth $1 billion in South Australia. The one-gigawatt project will feature 780,000 solar panels and generate electricity for 96,000 homes.
The first of the many renewable energy projects planned for the upper Spencer Gulf region in the country would be the Cultana Solar Farm. The venture, by Gupta’s energy farm company Simec Zen, was launched recently by South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer, and Simec Zen Energy Chairman Sanjeev Gupta.
The new venture, construction for which will begin in early 2019, will employ 350 workers, Gupta’s global GFG Alliance said in a statement. The solar project, with a 280 megawatts capacity, will generate 600 gigawatt hours of power per year, which is equal to around 1 percent of Australia’s annual power needs, Reuters reported.
It will be set up in 1,100 hectares, about 550 times larger than Adelaide Oval, the statement added.
“Today’s event is symbolic of our desire to develop and invest in new‐generation energy assets that will bring down Australia’s electricity prices to competitive levels again, as well as our commitment to local and regional Australia,” Gupta said at the site near Whyalla on Aug.15.
The project, together with Simec Zen’s upcoming second solar project nearby, will make this one of Australia’s largest solar farms, Gupta added.
The other projects in the pipeline include a cogeneration plan at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas, the world’s largest lithium‐ion battery, and pumped hydro projects at Middleback Ranges mining operations.
“All of these projects will not only improve reliability and greatly reduce the cost of electricity in our own operations, they will also provide competitive sources of power for other industrial and commercial users, while at the same time playing a key role in the market’s transition towards renewables,” Gupta added, according to the statement.
“We have a strong conviction that traditional carbon‐intensive generation sources do not have a long‐term future as the predominant source of power in Australia and globally. We believe the world is undergoing a momentous transition to renewable power as the cost of renewables drops dramatically and quickly,” he said, adding that it is important to acknowledge and support the critical role that coal and other traditional fossil‐fuel‐based power would play in this transition.
Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer welcomed the solar farm plans for Whyalla. “We congratulate SIMEC Zen Energy on this project and we are proud to contribute towards it with the lease of this land which will help create more jobs and more prosperity in Whyalla,” she said. “We are becoming the renewable energy hub of South Australia with these sort of projects.”
London-based Gupta acquired a controlling stake in the Adelaide-based Zen Energy for an undisclosed sum last year. SIMEC Energy, the energy division of GFG Alliance, struck an agreement to buy 50.10 percent shares of Australian solar company Zen to power its mining business and to meet the growing domestic energy needs in September 2017.