July 20, 2018 Read More →

Australia’s largest steelmaker inks major solar power deal


Australia’s biggest steel company is investing in a major new solar farm in a bid to cut energy costs and improve reliability.

Bluescope and ESCO Power signed a seven-year deal in Wollongong on Friday, in what is the country’s largest-ever solar power-purchasing agreement. It will result in the steelmaker underwriting the construction of a 500,000-panel solar farm at Finley in the NSW Riverina region.

Bluescope chief executive of steel products John Nowlan said power generated from the solar plant would meet 20 percent of the company’s energy needs. “As you can imagine, we’re a large user of electricity. What we’re balancing is the need for reliable power, low-cost power and clean power, so this is a step in the right direction on all those fronts,” Nowlan said. “We’ve been working very hard over the last few years to make sure that our steelmaking operations here in the Illawarra in particular are competitive,” he said.

“Over the last couple of years our electricity costs have more than doubled, and they’ve gone up by something like $50 million over the last 12 months or so. That’s a significant increase in our costs, and what we’re trying to do is put downward pressure on our energy costs, and this arrangement helps us to do that.”

NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin said it was a good example of the private sector taking action in arresting rising power costs.

Large-scale solar farms have been popping up right across inland NSW, and Mr. Harwin said solar, along with hydro and wind, would lead the energy transition. “There’s no doubt the cost structure of renewables is changing. Once upon a time it was a very expensive technology. It’s now becoming very fast the cheapest new build,” Harwin said.

More: Steel giant Bluescope turns to solar in largest power-purchasing deal of its kind

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