Neoen Closes Australian Solar-Plus-Storage Facility After 7 Years

Neoen Closes Australian Solar-Plus-Storage Facility After 7 Years


DeGrussa Solar and Battery Hub Reaches End of Life

The DeGrussa solar and battery hub in remote Western Australia – the largest integrated off-grid solar and battery storage facility in Australia when it was deployed – has reached end of life, says asset owner Neoen.

Dated Announcement

Dismantling of the Largest Off-Grid Solar and Battery Hub

From pv magazine Australia

French renewable energy giant Neoen has confirmed the DeGrussa solar and battery hub in the heart of Western Australia’s goldfields region will be dismantled after seven years of operations.

DeGrussa Facility’s Operational Achievements

The DeGrussa facility, comprising 10.6 MW of PV and a 6 MW lithium-ion battery energy storage system teamed with a diesel-fired generator, was commissioned at West Australian mining company Sandfire Resources’ Degussa copper mine site, 900 kilometers northeast of Perth, in June 2016.

The solar hybrid power system has since supplied nearly 20% of the mining operation’s annual power requirements and cut its emissions by about 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Extended Agreement and Subsequent Decommissioning

Sandfire purchased the power under an initial 5.5-year agreement, but that was extended as the mining operation pushed beyond its original 2021 closure date. The mine has however now ceased operations, signalling the end of life for the DeGrussa solar and battery hub.

In a statement shared with pv magazine, Neoen said it plans to remove the solar panels, as well as the rest of its facility and to rehabilitate the site.

Recognition of the Project’s Success

Climate Energy Finance Director Tim Buckley said the dismantling came as no surprise with the end of mine life “absolutely well known” when the solar hybrid power system was commissioned.

“There is no surprise there,” he said, adding that in spite of its short lifespan, the DeGrussa power project has been a “brilliant success.”

Impact on Australia’s Energy Transition

Buckley said the project, which attracted AUD 20.9 million ($13.7 million) in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and AUD 15 million in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corp. (CEFC), was part of the “step change that took solar from being a potential technology to being now integral to the transformation and decarbonization of the Australian electricity system.”

“Given Australia has gone on to become a world leader in both the solar and battery energy storage systems means this was a brilliant success, over-delivering in terms of the financials and project’s planned life and the learning by doing of this pilot-scale, world-leading deployment,” he said. “The capacity, the scale, the technology improvements, the software integration, all the learnings that have gone on, DeGrussa was a core part of the early learning by doing.”

Ongoing Learning From the DeGrussa Project

Buckley said the project had provided key learnings in how off-grid energy needs are going to be met with Australia now embracing the energy transition.

“Our biggest companies are BHP and Rio, huge balance sheets, huge potential, and huge energy needs, and they are starting to embrace the learning by doing that ARENA has been championing for the past decade and DeGrussa was a classic example,” he said.

Potential Reuse of DeGrussa’s Solar Panels

Even as it is being dismantled, the DeGrussa project could provide lessons with Neoen exploring opportunities to repurpose the 34,080 solar panels and other infrastructure that is installed across the 20-hectare site.

“Our preference is for the solar panels to be re-used as they remain in good condition,” the company said, adding that it “is currently investigating opportunities to find a second life for the solar panels and for the other main components such as the inverters, transformers, and the battery pack.”

Decommissioning of Wind Farms in Western Australia

The DeGrussa milestone comes as the Western Australian government-owned utility Synergy announced that it has commenced the decommissioning of the Ten Mile Lagoon and Nine Mile Beach wind farms near Esperance in the state’s southwest.

Nine Mile and Ten Mile wind farms were installed more than 20 years ago and have reached their end of life.

Repurposing Wind Turbines for Educational and Operational Use

During decommissioning, two of the wind turbines are being donated to North Metropolitan TAFE for renewable energy training purposes and six wind turbines will be repurposed at new wind farm sites in the Perth region.

Completion Timeline for Wind Farm Decommissioning

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

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