Hybrid micro-grids are aiding in powering the mining industry, taking a burden off the national grids of nations around the world. According the THEnergy analysis, solar-diesel and wind-diesel micro-grids for off-grid mines is gaining momentum and new projects are expected. The micro-grid is seen as an attractive solution for improving mining firm’s energy cost positions.
Africa and Australia are turning into “solar-for-mining hotspots”, while Canada and South America lead the development of wind-diesel hybrids.
In Africa these time off micro-grid plants are flourishing for off-grid mining. Iamgold announced recently that it is adding a new 12.5-MW solar PV plant to its Essakane gold mine in Burkina Faso. The company signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the French independent power producer (IPP) EREN for an initial period of 15 years. Wärtsilä will integrate and build the solar plant.
Nevsun is launching a 7.5-MW solar plant to reduce diesel consumption at its Bisha mine in Eritrea. Under a ten year PPA, Aggreko will provide a total of 29.5 MW of solar-diesel hybrid power to the gold and copper mine.
“This upturn has become apparent during the last few months”, according to Dr. Thomas Hillig, managing director of THEnergy, a Germany-based consultancy specializing in microgrids. “We have been observing the market closely for the last 3 years. In the past 12 months, more and more mining companies have become interested in renewables.”
“The newly announced projects will speed-up the uptake. If everything turns out well, mining companies could sign another 5-8 PPAs for renewable energy supply before the end of 2017,” says Hillig.