Unearthing the future: Mining company investment in solar plants

Unearthing the future: Mining company investment in solar plants

Valuable commodities like iron ore, gold and gas sure do require a lot of energy to dig up. What’s worse, mine sites are often located in remote areas of the country isolated from the power grid, making them heavily reliant on dirty, polluting generation methods.

However, in recent years there appears to be an industry-wide realisation that mine sites can enjoy electricity generated by off-grid power solutions that are not only cheaper but secure and reliable too.

Solar, battery storage and gas are clean, sustainable, and cost-effective alternatives that bring down electricity costs and minimise carbon footprints. And today, it’s becoming less of an exception, and more the expectation.

 

How are mine sites traditionally powered?

Mine sites have long relied on diesel and gas generators. This is bad news for the environment, with tonnes of carbon spewing into the atmosphere every year as a result.

That spells long term problems for all of us – but there’s an immediate threat too. Diesel fumes have recently had their status raised from a ‘probable carcinogen’ to ‘carcinogen’, which means they have the potential to seriously harm the health of mine site workers who breathe it in, especially underground miners.

 

The answer – Mine Site Solar Plants

You’ve probably heard of solar farms built around the world to feed energy into the grid as part of the national electricity network, allowing towns and regions to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Now mine sites are taking ownership of their own energy needs by investing in micro solar plants. Solar technology can be seamlessly integrated with diesel or gas generators in a hybrid system to ensure 24-hour power supply while helping reduce the total cost per kWh.

These solar plants are giving mine sites the ability to integrate demand management by allowing them to optimise the site’s power system day and night.

So, what’s stopping every mining company from building solar plants?

Finance. It’s expensive to build them.

Thankfully, mining companies don’t have to invest heavily in building a local solar plant. With a Power Purchase Agreement, mine sites can buy power from an independent power supplier.

 

Australia’s solar powered mine sites

Let’s check out what our homegrown mining companies are doing.

 

Fortescue Metal Group (FMG)

Onya Twiggy.

Two FMG sites – Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak – are being linked to a new solar farm that integrates solar, gas and storage into an off-grid network developed, owned and operated by Alinta. The project will supply renewable energy for up to 100 per cent of daytime energy requirements.

Quick facts:

  • 60 MW AC solar PV
  • 35 MW battery storage facility
  • ~100 million litre reduction in annual diesel use

 

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has committed to lowering the carbon footprint created by mining iron ore by creating its first solar plant at its Gudai-Darri mine. The company anticipates the solar plant will supply 100% of the mine’s energy needs during peak solar times, and ~65% electricity outside that.

Quick facts:

  • 34MW PV
  • ~100,000 solar panels + lithium-ion battery energy storage system
  • ~ 90,000 tonne reduction in annual CO2 emissions

 

BHP

The Northern Goldfields Solar Project will power BHP Nickel West’s Mt Keith and Leinster operations. As one of the world’s largest off-grid mining solar and battery energy storage systems, the solar plant will ensure the mine sites are 100% no longer reliant on diesel and gas power generation.

  • 4 MW + 10.7 MW solar farms
  • 1 MW battery at Leinster
  • ~54,000 tonne reduction in annual carbon emission

 

Mine sites are taking energy production into their own hands – are you? Talk to Solar My Home WA today to find a solution that will slash your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint. Contact Solar My Home WA for an obligation free quote – (08) 6209 7709 or email info@solarmyhomewa.com.au

 

REFERENCES
https://www.australianmining.com.au/product/off-the-grid-solar-solutions/
https://www.australianmining.com.au/news/solar-project-to-power-bhp/
https://www.minister.industry.gov.au/ministers/wilson/media-releases/was-largest-solar-farm-slash-mining-emissions
https://www.riotinto.com/en/news/stories/First-solar-plant
https://arena.gov.au/projects/alinta-fortescue-solar-gas-hybrid-project/

 

 

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