Rio Tinto is advancing the development of Australia’s largest solar power project near Gladstone after committing to purchase all electricity from the 1.1GW Upper Calliope Solar Farm to power the company’s Gladstone operations.
Rio Tinto has signed an agreement to increase renewable power in Australia’s Gladstone industrial hub, a significant step towards halving its global Scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions this decade. This could also be a solution to repower Rio Tinto’s three Gladstone production assets, including the Boyne aluminium smelter, Yarwun alumina refinery, and Queensland Alumina refinery.
Under Rio Tinto’s new power purchase agreement (PPA) with European Energy Australia, the company will purchase all power generated by the Upper Calliope solar farm for 25 years. European Energy will build and operate the plant on a site around 50 kilometres southwest of Gladstone, pending development and grid connection approvals.
Once approved and completed, Upper Calliope has the potential to reduce Rio Tinto’s operating carbon emissions by 1.8 million tonnes per year.
Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said this agreement marks a crucial initial step in the company’s endeavour to repower our Gladstone operations, demonstrating our dedication to maintaining a sustainable power source 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,” Stausholm stated.
“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,” he added.
Once approved, development on the Upper Calliope plant is expected to begin in 2025 or 2026, and when completed, it will supply enough energy to cover around 5% of Queensland’s current demand. The project, which is expected to take two years to build, will span 2400 hectares, employ 1000 people during construction, and support 100 direct and indirect employment once operational.
“European Energy is proud to be a strategic partner in this project with Rio Tinto. Our commitment to providing renewable and reliable energy aligns perfectly with Rio Tinto’s ambitious climate goals. The Upper Calliope Solar Farm is not just a solar power project; it’s a testament to our shared vision for a greener future,” European Energy CEO Erik Andersen said.
“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,” Andersen added.
Upper Calliope is the first successful applicant in Rio Tinto’s formal Request for Proposal for renewable energy and firming projects in Central and Southern Queensland.
Rio Tinto is exploring various proposals and partnerships to meet the energy needs of its Gladstone region production assets, which require over 1GW of reliable power, equivalent to over 4GW of quality wind or solar power. Further electrification of plant processes could increase their electricity demand.