Mining giant Rio Tinto is optimistic the introduction of battery-electric powered trains in the Pilbara will help the company halve its emissions by 2030.

Rio Tinto hopes a trial of these battery-electric trains run off solar power could pave the way for its entire fleet of 220 diesel locomotives to go electric.

Four locomotives from Wabtec will be made in America in 2023 and become operational in the Pilbara the following year.

Rio Tinto Managing Director or Port, Rail, and Core Services, Richard Cohen, said the plan would contribute to the company’s emission reduction targets.

“We want to make sure by 2030 we’re not procuring any more diesel locomotives, and progressively as we stretch towards the goal of zero, will absolutely plan to replace all of our locomotives,” he said.

Rio Tinto hopes by replacing its fleet of trains to run off solar-generated electricity, the company could cut its diesel-related carbon emissions from its Pilbara iron ore operations by 30 per cent.

As we strive to get our 50 per cent reduction in emissions, one of the other projects we’re doing in the Pilbara is building a gigawatt of renewable power before 2030,” Mr Cohen said.

He said during the trial, Rio would assess how the trains perform and integrate with the rest of the system.

“These locomotives won’t have quite the same power as our existing diesel locomotives, but we want to buy these four and then continue to work with Wabtec to build that capability,” Mr Cohen said.

A battle between solar and hydrogen

Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University, Peter Newman, said this investment signalled a trend for the industry.

“For many years now, I’ve been part of this discussion within the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change],” he said.

“This is now saying that electric trains, that are basically fuelled by solar, are likely to be winning.”

Other resource companies in the north west were also ramping up efforts in solar energy.

On Monday, Woodside made an environmental submission for a proposed solar farm near its Pluto LNG Plant in the Pilbara.

Professor Newman said solar energy had become more economically viable for companies in the state.

“We have all of the technology; we have the best sunshine,” he said.

“I think you’ll find that every mining company in the Pilbara right through the Goldfields everywhere in Western Australia have that as their agenda, how to phase out the diesel systems that are being used for electricity, they’re the dinosaurs of the future.”

According to Professor Newman, consumers and investors have also pushed for the transition to renewables through insistence on carbon reduction strategies.

“The politics, globally, is saying we’ve got to get on and do something about climate change.”

Extracted in full from: Rio Tinto hopes electric trains will help company halve emissions – ABC News