Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group has announced plans to invest $450m into the next stage of Pilbara Energy Connect Programme, called Pilbara Generation project, in Western Australia.

The Pilbara Generation project will combine 150MW of gas-fired power plant with 150MW of solar PV farm. It will be supplemented by Fortescue’s battery storage.

The Pilbara Generation project will complement Fortescue’s $250m Pilbara transmission project that was announced in October last year. The transmission project involves the construction of approximately 375km of 220kV overhead transmission lines with terminal and substation infrastructure.

Transmission and generation projects together form Pilbara Energy Connect programme

Estimated to cost $700m in total, the transmission and generation projects together form the Pilbara Energy Connect programme, which provide Fortescue with a hybrid solar gas energy solution that will deliver a low cost power to Iron Bridge magnetite project in the Pilbara region.

The Pilbara Energy Connectproject builds on the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project which was announced in 2019.

Last year, Fortescue signed an agreement with Alinta Energy to build the Chichester solar gas hybrid project, which aims to power the Chichester Hub iron ore operations in the Pilbara with renewable sources.

The deal allows Alinta to build, own and operate the 60MW solar PV generation facility at the Chichester Hub and 60km transmission line that will link the Christmas Creek and Cloud break mining operations with Alinta Energy’s Newman power plant.

Upon completion, the project will get integrated with the Pilbara Energy Connect programme, through the Pilbara transmission project.

Fortescue Metals Group CEO Elizabeth Gaines said: “The lack of an integrated transmission network in the Pilbara has been a key barrier to entry for large scale renewables and Fortescue’s investment will address this issue.

“Fortescue’s commitment of US$700million in electricity generation and transmission infrastructure will complete the integration of Fortescue’s stationary energy requirements in the Pilbara into an efficient network, while lowering the overall cost of electricity to existing and future sites.

“By installing150MWof solar PVas part of the Pilbara Generation Project, the modelling indicates we will avoid up to 285,000 tonnes of CO2e per year in emissions, as compared to generating electricity solely from gas.

“Importantly, Pilbara Energy Connect allows for large scale renewable generation such as solar or wind to be connected at any point on the integrated network, positioning Fortescue to readily increase our use of renewable energy in the future.”