The first large scale project in British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta’s plan to generate one gigawatt (GW) of dispatchable renewable energy in South Australia has been approved.
The 280 megawatt (MW) Cultana Solar Farm, to be located on 1100 hectares (ha) of vacant land to the north of the Whyalla Steelworks in the Upper Spencer Gulf town of Whyalla, has just been signed off by the South Australian Government.
The Cultana Solar Farm will feature 780,000 solar panels capable of generating 600 GW hours of energy generation per year – which is enough to power almost 100,000 homes while offsetting 492,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Financial close is expected to be reached by the end of June and construction on the solar farm is anticipated to commence in the second half of 2019.
The Cultana Solar Farm is forecast to generate approximately 350 direct jobs during its construction phase and 10 ongoing operation and maintenance positions. It will be delivered by SIMEC Energy Australia, part of Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance.
The energy generated by the farm will contribute to the national electricity grid through the existing ElectraNet Cultana substation.
Chief Executive at SIMEC Energy Australia, Marc Barrington, said securing Development Approval was an important step in the company’s goal of providing globally competitive energy for Australian business and industry.
“Delivery of this new sustainable energy generation asset will also contribute to emissions reductions, sustainability objectives, and increase the overall reliability and security of electricity supply for users across the Upper Spencer Gulf region,” he said.
SIMEC Energy has amended the layout and construction methods of the farm to reduce the amount of native vegetation requiring removal from the originally proposed 871ha down to 448ha.
It will also pay $3.4 million to the Native Vegetation Fund, which helps restore, revegetate and protect vegetation across South Australia.
SIMEC Energy has also worked with Succession Ecology Australia to identify a new way to flatten native vegetation, which reduces the effects of dust on site during construction and long-term problems associated with disturbing the soil crust.
Mr Gupta’s strong position in South Australia began in 2017 when his company Liberty House purchased the struggling Whyalla Steelworks from Arrium.
GFG Alliance then purchased a 50.1 per cent stake in South Australian renewable energy company ZEN Energy to form SIMEC Energy Australia before launching its 1 GW bid in October 2017.
Other proposed projects in the GFG Alliance 1GW energy plan include the Playford Utility Battery at Port Augusta and the Middleback Range Pumped Hydro Project on the Eyre Peninsula, which are in the early planning stages.