Mining company Rio Tinto has signed a new 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with European Energy Australia to buy all electricity from the 1.1GW Upper Calliope solar farm near Gladstone in Australia.

The mining company will supply the purchased renewable electricity to power its Gladstone operations.

The PPA will bring more renewable power into the region, and another supports Rio Tinto’s climate goal of reducing its global Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by half, this decade.

The power from Upper Calliope, combined with suitable firming, transmission, and industrial policy, supports the repowering of Rio Tinto’s three production assets in Gladstone.

The production assets include the Boyne aluminium smelter, the Yarwun alumina refinery and the Queensland Alumina refinery.

Once completed, the Upper Calliope plant is expected to have the potential to reduce Rio Tinto’s operating carbon emissions by 1.8 million tonnes per year (mtpa).

Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm said: “This agreement is a first important step in our work to repower our Gladstone operations and illustrates our commitment to keeping sustainably powered industry in Central Queensland.

“The task remains challenging, but we have a pathway to provide the competitive, firmed power our Gladstone plants need and we are continuing to work hard with all stakeholders, including the Queensland and Australian governments, on getting there.

“Competitive capacity, firming, and transmission are critical to developing a modern energy system that can ensure more large-scale renewables development in Queensland and help guarantee the future of Australian industry.”

European Energy will build and operate the Upper Calliope solar plant at a site located around 50km southwest of Gladstone, pending development and grid connection approvals.

Once approved, plant construction would begin in 2025 or 2026, which would take two years.

Upon completion, the plant would provide adequate electricity to address about 5% of the current electricity demand in Queensland.

The Upper Calliope facility, which covers 2400ha of area, is expected to employ 1,000 people during construction and support 100 direct and indirect jobs when operating.

Rio Tinto said that it will continue to pursue other proposals, solutions, and partnerships to meet the energy needs of its three production assets in the Gladstone region.

European Energy CEO Erik Andersen said: “The Upper Calliope Solar Farm is not just a solar power project; it’s a testament to our shared vision for a greener future.

“By supplying renewable energy to one of Australia’s key industrial hubs, we are setting a new standard for industrial energy consumption.

“This project underlines our dedication to driving the transition towards renewable energy in Australia and demonstrates the potential of solar power in transforming the energy landscape of the region.

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Rio Tinto and other stakeholders to create a sustainable and energy-efficient future for Australia.”