First Solar to power Aussie mine

US giant First Solar and Australian solar group Ingenero have signed an agreement to develop 17MW Weipa PV project at the Rio Tinto Alcan bauxite mine in Queensland, Australia.

The deployment will make the mine the first to use a solar plant to reduce its annual diesel consumption and lower CO2 emissions, said First Solar

The project will get an initial A$3.5m ($3.2m) from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), to be followed by an allocation of up to A$7.8m for the plant’s second phase.

Weipa will have the potential to expand by an additional 5MW after commissioning of the initial phase.

Rio Tinto Alcan will buy the electricity under a 15 year power purchase agreement (PPA).

"For the Weipa bauxite mine, solar PV complements the existing base-load generation by providing electricity in times of peak demand and reducing the amount of diesel fuel used," said Jack Curtis, First Solar's vice president of business development for Asia Pacific.

Completion is scheduled for late 2014, with First Solar supplying its thin-film PV modules and providing operation and maintenance services for the duration of the project.