Solar in Australia: Steel giant Bluescope turns to solar in largest PPA deal of its kind

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.

The company had explored the possibility of having solar panels at its Port Kembla steelworks, but said the flat, open land at Finley was ideal for tapping into solar.

Bluescope chief executive of steel products John Nowlan said power generated from the solar plant would meet 20 per cent of the company's energy needs.

He said it would help improve energy reliability and affordability at the Port Kembla steelworks.

"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," Mr Nowlan said.

Reducing costs by saving on electricity

Mr Nowlan said while other power sources were vital for supplying the company's round-the-clock operations, solar would form a crucial part of the energy mix.

"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."

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