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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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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Whyalla’s Breeze Millard on the road to stardom

Singing into a hairbrush might be as far as most teens get with a professional singing career, but for Whyalla’s Breeze Millard a big break might only be a ballad away.

The 17-year-old has not only released a debut single while completing Year 12, but her film clip has led to a Whyalla production company becoming a finalist in the SA Music Awards.

The young singer-songwriter is local music company Stormfront Productions’ inaugural recipient of the Whyalla Recording Scholarship.

Over the past year Breeze has undertaken a music mentorship at Stormfront’s studio to write, record and release pop song, I Have My Own Life.

Breeze Millard, 17,

Breeze Millard, 17, is Stormfront Production’s inaugural Whyalla Recording Scholarship recipient.

“Being in the studio was definitely a new experience for me and different to being in front of a live audience,” Breeze says.

I Have My Own Life is about being within ourselves and not listening to others and knowing how we want to live our life.

“I want the song to be open to interpretation and relate to different people and their lives.”

The debut single led to Stormfront Productions becoming a finalist for Best Studio in the 2017 SA Music Awards.

I Have My Own Life featured guidance from Stormfront Productions’ singer-songwriters Mark Tempany and Alison Hams, as well as top musical talents from the US.

Multi Grammy-award winner Tom Coyne, who has worked on recordings with Adele, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, mastered the song before he passed away from illness in April, 2017.

“Working with Tom was absolutely amazing,” says Breeze.

“We recorded my vocals here and sent it out to artists who would then send music back.

“We had many great people from all around the world providing us with music.”

Breeze performs at the Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards in Adelaide earlier in 2017.

Breeze performs at the Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards in Adelaide earlier in 2017.

The song reached number eight on the Australian Radio Airplay Project chart – a listing of popular tracks ordered for airplay on community radio, while it also reached number five on the Indie Radio Alliance Chart in the UK.

Earlier this year Breeze performed to hundreds of people at the Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards.

Her next gig is scheduled for December 10 at the Whyalla Carols in the Park.

The Edward John Eyre High School student intends to pursue a career in journalism.

“I’m definitely going to pursue music along with my university course,” she says.

Stormfront Productions’ Alison Hams says the Whyalla Recording Scholarship allows performers to gain a professional insight and guidance into the world of showbiz.

“This gives Breeze the best possible chance to go out into the world with her music,” she added.

View the I Have My Own Life film clip here.

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