Construction begins on Sun Metals solar project

Construction has begun on Queensland’s largest industrial solar project.

The $199 million project will see 1.3 million solar panels installed at the Sun Metals zinc refinery in Townsville.

When completed, the site will deliver a new 125MW renewable energy power station, as well as more than 1000 jobs.

Sun Metals chief executive officer Yun Choi said since its 1996 opening the refinery has played a significant economic role in Townsville and Queensland.

“Current refinery operations see Sun Metals produce 225,000 tons of zinc per annum using more than 900,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year,” Mr Choi said.

“The development of the Sun Metals Corporation solar farm will see an additional 125MW capacity of generation available to the National Electricity Market, underpinning the Queensland government’s solar energy development policy, and a marked reduction in the carbon footprint of the refinery’s operations.

“The SMC Solar Farm investment of $199 million is the first step in Korea Zinc ensuring the long term viability of the existing refinery and also underpinning the potential for its expansion using world class new technology, with an investment decision due in late 2017.

“An expanded refinery would see an additional $267 million invested and is expected to support up to 827 construction jobs during peak construction and an additional 100 permanent refinery workers once operational, all within North Queensland.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said this style of expansion was a prime example of the role renewable energy will play in the state’s future industrial landscape.

“Upon completion Sun Metals will be the largest single site user of renewable energy,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“This is a unique project and is a great example of an innovative company investing in its future and North Queensland.

“This investment will help Sun Metals to secure its output by stabilising production costs, and will provide even more job security to the refinery’s 291 employees.”

The solar project would also see the creation of 210 solar powered jobs during construction.

“Through government-owned Powerlink, the Palaszczuk government will facilitate connection of Sun Metal’s new power station to the grid,” Energy Minister Mark Bailey said.

“This solar farm will see renewable energy added into Korea Zinc’s mix of baseload power required to run its zinc production line – with the solar farm supplying about a third of the refinery’s current baseload power needs.”

The Sun Metals solar project is expected to be completed in early 2018 and fully commissioned and providing renewable energy into the refinery’s energy mix by April 2018.