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Another Major Miner Turns to Solar-plus-Storage for Power

image credit: *Credit: Rocky Mountain Institute Sunshine for Mines Program

Australia's Gold Fields has tapped U.K.-based remote and off-grid power systems specialist Aggreko to build a hybrid, 8-MW, solar-plus-storage microgrid at its mining facility in Granny Smith, Western Australia. 

“We are thrilled to reach an agreement with Aggreko for the design, installation and operation of this innovative source of renewable energy, which will generate nearly enough power to run the mine’s processing operations," Gold Fields Executive Vice President, Australasia Stuart Matthews was quoted in a news report. 

“We expect the renewable power microgrid will be up and running at Granny Smith by Q4 2019 and it will be a welcome addition to our suite of on-site energy solutions across other operations which will enable us to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Keeping up with the fast-changing energy times

Aggreko acquired Germany's Younicos, a pioneer in developing, building and running advanced, "grid-forming" battery energy storage systems capable of accommodating high penetrations of distributed renewable energy resources, in July 2017. 

Younicos’ advanced lithium-ion and sodium-nickel-chloride (NaNiCl) BESS, distributed renewable energy resource management (DERM) and grid-integration technologies have been instrumental in building some of the world’s foremost examples of zero-carbon emissions microgrids. That includes the TILOS zero-carbon emissions microgrid on the Greek Aegean island it was named after, and the smart island microgrid on the Portuguese Azores’ island of Graciosa.

Last June, Aggreko-Younicos announced it would build a hybrid microgrid  that combines 22 MW of diesel power and 7.5 MW of solar PV power generation at a copper-zinc mine in Eritrea. The first instance of Aggreko-Younicos' new microgrid-as-a-service, the hybrid microgrid came with no upfront cost to the mining company (name undisclosed) as per the terms of a 10-year power purchase/rental agreement, according to a news release.

“Global energy markets are changing: 'decarbonizing' and becoming more decentralized and digital. As renewables penetration increases, intermittency becomes a more difficult issue to manage across grid systems. Integration and control of thermal, renewable and battery systems will be increasingly required to ensure power stability and reliability are maintained,” Aggreko management said at the time.

Sunshine for Mines

Mining companies are increasingly turning to the combination of solar PV and/or battery-based energy storage systems (BESS) to power their operations. 

This past week, Switzerland's meeco Group, through local joint venture oursun Pacific Ltd., announced it is designing, engineering and installing an 11 MW, hybrid solar PV-diesel microgrid for Canada's Lion One Metals Ltd., owner-operator of the Tuvatu Gold Project on Viti Levu, the largest of the Fijian islands. 

Last May, Australian energy utility Alinta announced it had deployed the largest commercial-industrial-scale BESS in the country. The 30MW-11.4 MWh BESS is centered on high-power, short-duration, nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide (NMC) lithium-ion batteries (LiB) manufactured by South Korea's Kokam. 

Combining natural gas power generation with intelligent, battery-based energy storage, the upgraded, 178MW open-cycle gas turbine Newman Power Station essentially functions as a giant microgrid – a closed loop, “islanded,” high-voltage power grid dedicated to serving iron ore mines in Western Australia's mineral-rich Pilbara region. An ABB microgrid control system manages electricity  production, energy storage and dispatch, transmission and distribution to the Roy Hill, an integrated iron ore mining, rail and port operation. 

A total of some 943 MW of renewable power generation capacity was up and running on mining sites worldwide, and more was on the way, according to a Nov. 2017 market research report from the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) Sunshine for Mines program. “[R]enewables for mines is now firmly established as a critical market segment for the global renewable energy industry. Industry experts predict continued growth for this sector as mines face increasing carbon exposure and energy cost pressures,” Sunshine for Mines stated.

RMI Sunshine for Mines projected mining sector renewable power capacity would rise to more than 1.4 GW globally over the ensuing five years. “Renewable power will be a must for any new mining project with an appropriate life, as well as, an attractive option to add to an existing mine,” commented Michel Carreau, director of energy at Hatch, an international mining and energy engineering and consulting company based in Montreal.

Andrew Burger's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 7, 2019 11:00 am GMT

Mines turning to solar+storage is an interesting development-- reducing manufacturing emissions from the origin of the materials is undoubtedly a positive. I'm hoping the technology will work great and start to scale across the global mining industry

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