Sanjeev Gupta announces Whyalla solar farm the size of 550 Adelaide Ovals

British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has announced plans for a solar farm covering an area the size of 550 Adelaide Ovals as part of his $US1 billion renewable energy plan for the Upper Spencer Gulf.

SIMEC ZEN Energy – part of Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance – announced the plans for one of Australia’s largest solar farms alongside South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and local Mayor Lyn Breuer in Whyalla on August 15.

The Cultana Solar Farm is the first project to be unveiled as part of Mr Gupta’s landmark $US1 billion, one gigabit dispatchable renewable energy program.

The Cultana solar project will feature 780,000 solar panels generating 600GWh of energy per year, enough to power 96,000 homes, and according to Mr Gupta will help bring down energy prices.

“Today’s event is symbolic of our desire to develop and invest in new-generation energy assets that will bring down Australia’s electricity prices to competitive levels again, as well as our commitment to local and regional Australia,” he says.

“In particular, this signals the beginning of our journey with a number of stakeholders to not only transform GFG’s operations in Whyalla, but also further enhance the appeal of this great city.”

In 2017, Mr Gupta’s company GFG Alliance bought the Whyalla steelworks and iron ore mines, saving thousands of local steel industry jobs.

The Cultana Solar Farm will generate 350 jobs during construction and 10 ongoing operation and maintenance positions.

Development approval is expected later this year before works begin in the first quarter of 2019.

Mr Gupta says Cultana, along with SIMEC ZEN’s second solar project to be built nearby, will become one of the largest solar farms in the country.

He says the renewable energy projects will not only improve reliability and drop energy costs for his own operations, but will provide competitive sources of power for other commercial and industrial users.

Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer says the city’s council is keen to partner with GFG Alliance in coming decades, including leasing a portion of land for the Cultana project.

She says the solar project signalled to the nation that Whyalla is open for business.

SIMEC ZEN Energy is pursuing a number of other renewable energy projects in the region, including cogeneration at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery and pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations.

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Energy and mining sector sparks growth for Energy LogistiX

The growth of South Australia’s mining and energy sector has prompted a local freight and transport business to plan towards establishing a base in the Upper Spencer Gulf.

Family owned and operated Energy LogistiX, which specialises in project transport and logistics solutions and is based near the Port of Adelaide, is hoping to expand its operations and open a depot in Whyalla or Port Augusta in the next 12 months.

Managing director Shaun Williamson says SA’s flourishing mining and energy sector – buoyed by various multimillion dollar investments in the state’s Far North – has been a “game-changer” for his small team of 38 employees.

Shaun says Energy LogistiX will open a depot in the Upper Spencer Gulf region within the next year to cater for an increasing demand from clients based in Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla.

Energy LogistiX managing director Shaun Williamson.

There are more than a dozen resources and renewable energy investment projects underway in the Upper Spencer Gulf including the Bungala solar power plant near Port Augusta and a world first solar powered tomato farm developed by Sundrop Farms.

“Every year we have been growing as a business by 30-50% year on year,” Shaun says.

“For us, the energy and mining sector has made a substantial difference … it’s a big deal for little companies like ours.”

Energy LogistiX’s fleet of rigids, semi-trailers and road trains are used to haul heavy equipment and other materials to service primarily the mining, oil and gas sector.

Shaun says the business has a strong focus on delivering “time critical” services, using smart integrated monitoring technology to track freight throughout its journey.

The technology also allows communication between fleet operators and clients, to deliver a “premium service that is unmatched in this space of project transport and logistics solutions”.

The smart integrated monitoring technology allows Energy LogistiX to keep track of freight in real time.

Energy LogistiX transports materials and heavy machinery including dangerous goods, cranes, drill casings, mining equipment, oil and gas materials and rigs, concrete trucks and large loaders.

Many of its clients are some of the biggest players in the state’s mining and energy sector, including BHP Billiton at Olympic Dam, one of the world’s biggest copper, gold and uranium mines, and Santos for its Port Bonython and Moomba operations.

For more than two years, Energy LogistiX has been working with mining company CU River, to iron ore mine, Cairn Hill, 50km south of Coober Pedy in the state’s Far North.

It has also transported heavy mining equipment, such as dump trucks, water trucks, cranes, concrete trucks and large loaders to Cairn Hill, one of the new mining projects on the horizon.

Shaun says the small family business is also hoping to secure work in the near future with OZ Minerals at its Carrapateena operation – Australia’s largest undeveloped copper deposit.

He says running a small business and being a part of the supply chain for one of the state’s largest industries often comes with its challenges.

“It’s difficult because our competitors are multinational corporations,” Shaun says.

“But we’re SA owned and operated, so give us a shot and keep the business within our state, just as we choose to support other family owned and operated businesses in SA.

“Keeping it local is key to our future and success.

“We’re big enough and capable enough to take on these multimillion dollar contracts and we will always deliver on our promise.”

Energy LogistiX started from humble beginnings – sprouting from a small-time operation run out of the Williamson family’s small unit in Port Adelaide.

That was in 2010 and eight years on it’s now based at a 28,000m2 office and depot facility near the Osborne Naval Shipbuilding Precinct.

Shaun’s mother Jo Williamson co-founded the business and has a strong background in working in the oil and gas sector.

Shaun, a professional motocross and supercross racer, has a background also working on oil rigs.

“We’re both against the grain; Mum is a female in a male dominated industry and we started with nothing,” he says.

“Now we’re working for our blue chip clients delivering our vision of being the best at what we do day in day out.”

Photos by 57 Films.

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Building a bright future in Upper Spencer Gulf

When British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta signed a deal to turn around the fortunes of Whyalla and its struggling steelworks, he not only saved thousands of jobs but also injected an extraordinary boost of confidence into the region.

His widespread investment has Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer brimming with optimism for the state’s Upper Spencer Gulf and Business SA’s chief executive Nigel McBride relishing a wider lift in the economy.

Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance bought the town’s ailing steelworks from Arrium when it was in administration with some 6000 jobs under threat.

“We were in a really, really bad patch and it seemed like we were in a situation we weren’t going to get out of, when Mr Gupta came along and GFG it was such a blessed relief,” Mrs Breuer says.

Now she says the plans just keep getting better with announcements that the GFG Liberty OneSteel plant will double production and create a greener business model with more recycled steel and a focus on clean energy.

Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer speaks at a handover ceremony on the day GFG Alliance took over the steelworks. Photo by Jon Ortlieb.

Mr Gupta wants to build solar farms along with the country’s largest lithium ion battery and to eventually also develop new housing in Whyalla.

Contracts are being signed to upgrade the plant and Mrs Breuer says investigations are underway to expand the Whyalla port while GFG Alliance is taking on a majority stake in ZEN Energy to realise its national energy ambitions.

“People understand in the next 12 months we’ll see a real turn around in our town, we are looking toward to a more positive future than we ever have before,” Mrs Breuer says.

This key investment comes amid remarkable growth, particularly in renewable energy, in the region.

There are some 13 new investment projects underway, among them the Bungala solar power plant near Port Augusta being under construction, while the much-lauded concentrated solar thermal plant owned by Sundrop Farms is already running a hydroponic greenhouse to grow tomatoes.

Mayors from Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Pirie met on Friday last week to discuss how their councils can help ensure there will be enough skilled workers to fill the expected rapid rise in job openings.

Mrs Breuer says Mr Gupta has certainly piqued the interest of other global investors.

An aerial view of the Whyalla steelworks. Photo by Jon Ortlieb.

Whyalla council officers were invited to China for meetings with two more companies keen on investing.

While in January, Becker Helicopters announced it was moving some 70 staff and its training operation from Queensland to the Upper Spencer Gulf city.

The state’s Industry and Skills Minister David Pisoni also reports a renewed optimism in the region more than 300km from Adelaide after visiting in June and July to talk with industry and small business people.

“The significant, and very much welcome, investment by Gupta Family Group in Whyalla is already having huge flow-on effects within the local community and beyond,” Mr Pisoni said.

“Employers and business have been given renewed confidence, the region is also attracting recognition and new investment from around the globe.”

The GFG Alliance itself is a global group of energy, mining, metals, engineering and financial services businesses, headquartered in London, with additional hubs in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney and a presence in around 30 countries worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Liberty OneSteel.

Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride says the state has attracted vital intelligent capital, capital that is leading to “global know how” around lowering material costs, greater energy efficiency and new products.

“GFG is bringing a global supply chain to Whyalla so we are part of something much bigger ….. and it’s not just people working directly in the steelworks that benefit, it’s also small businesses who service it and their employees.”

He believes the investment has given a huge boost to business confidence in regional SA at a time when the state’s job figures are rising.

Even the Federal Government is sending in cash, announcing funding of $19.4m for eight projects in the region during April that it hoped would create more than 500 new jobs.

The Upper Spencer Gulf was the only SA region, and one of only 10 nationally, to get pilot funding under the national $222m regional jobs and investment package.

The 1200 tonne crane German-made Liebherr all terrain crane will be used to build and maintain wind towers.

Max Cranes in Whyalla won $4.7m funding toward a $12m telescopic mobile crane – the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere – used to build and maintain wind towers.

While Whyalla’s Ice Engineering and Construction was awarded half the $10m cost of creating a hub for three existing Whyalla-based heavy engineering and manufacturing companies.

“It’s an extraordinary investment strategy in a range of complementary industries and resources that will be truly transformational in regional SA and across our state,” Mr McBride adds.

Header photo is courtesy of Liberty OneSteel.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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