A number of miners around WA have installed solar panels as part of their energy generation mix.

Sunrise secures $7m solar win

Monday, 23 April, 2018 - 15:51
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A solar power company founded by former Western Power manager Neil Danby and basketballer Andrew Vlahov has picked up its first contract, winning $7 million of work at Image Resources’ Boonanarring mineral sands project.

Sunrise Energy will construct, own and operate a 3 to 4 megawatt solar farm at the mine, located near Gin Gin.

Building is expected to begin in early 2019, with approvals expected to take up to eight months.

Image won’t be the first miner to embrace solar technology.

Sandfire Resources built a $40 million facility at the DeGrussa copper mine, with a 10MW capacity.

Zenith Energy was contracted to build 7MW of solar capacity at Independence Group’s Nova nickel mine, as part of a larger generation facility that included 20MW of diesel-fired capability, although the renewable part of the project has not yet commenced.

But one notable feature of Image’s project is that it is actually located within the South West Interconnected System, the state’s major power distribution grid, so it is not a remote, off-grid site.

Mr Danby told Business News that Boonanarring was close to the fringe of the grid, however, with the network reasonably constrained.

A further benefit of building in a regional area was that land was not at a premium, he said, meaning that unlike in the city, panels could be installed in vacant space, rather than just on rooftops.

Commercial uptake

Business News reported last year that projections suggest nearly a gigawatt of commercial solar capacity would be installed in Western Australia in the next decade.

Mr Danby said there was definite potential.

There had been low adoption of commercial solar he said, compared to residential, with about a quarter of households having panels on their roofs.

“In the commercial space, and in particular, commercial over 100KW, there’s been (only) a handful of projects,” Mr Danby said.

“That's partly because of the nature of our market.

“The WA market is different to the national electricity market... we don’t have an energy deficit, we actually have an energy surplus.

“Power in WA is actually quite cheap for commercial business so you have to (find) different ways to help them save money.”

Part of that was achieved by targeting many of the charges businesses get on their bills seperate from just usage costs, Mr Danby said.

Mr Danby said he and Mr Vlahov had skill sets that complemented each other.

He said Mr Vlahov had challenged him to think bigger, and had strong business connections to China, where much of the world’s solar panels are manufactured.

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