Tag Archives: wind power

BHP looks to halve WA Iron Ore port facility emissions with Alinta Energy pact

BHP says it expects to halve emissions from the generation of electricity used to power its WA Iron Ore port facilities in Port Hedland by the end of 2024, following the signing of a large-scale renewable Power Purchase Agreement with Alinta Energy.

The halving of reported emissions, based on current forecast demand and compared with financial year 2020 (FY2020) reported emissions, will contribute to BHP’s medium-term target to reduce operational emissions by at least 30% from FY2020 levels by 2030 and the company’s long-term goal of achieving net zero operational emissions by 2050.

This agreement between BHP and Alinta will see the construction and connection of a 45 MW solar farm and 35 MW battery energy storage system into Alinta Energy’s existing Port Hedland power station, approximately 14 km from BHP’s port facilities, BHP says.

The construction of the solar farm, subject to final regulatory approvals, is expected to begin in December 2022 and create 200 jobs.

Once completed, it is expected that 100% of the forecasted average daytime energy requirements for BHP’s port facilities will be powered by solar generation, with the remaining power requirements to be met through the integrated battery energy storage system and market access to Alinta Energy’s existing gas fuelled power station facilities.

BHP is the foundation customer of Alinta’s solar battery hybrid project, which is expected to be the first large-scale renewable facility at Port Hedland and will support the expansion of the renewable energy industry in Western Australia.

In addition, BHP and Alinta Energy have entered into a memorandum of understanding in relation to the development of the Shay Gap Wind Farm. The Shay Gap Wind Farm is currently planned to be 45 MW, with a potential first-generation date of 2027.

The PPA is the latest milestone in BHP progressing its plan to reduce operational emissions in line with BHP’s climate targets and goals.

In recent years, it has signed power purchase agreements to provide renewable energy to BHP’s Nickel West operations in Western Australia, Olympic Dam operations in South Australia, BMA operations in Queensland and the Escondida copper mine in Chile.

BHP’s WA Iron Ore Asset President, Brandon Craig, said: “The world needs WA’s high quality iron ore to support economic development and decarbonisation, and we are committed to supplying iron ore more sustainably while investing in WA and creating local jobs. We are delighted to expand our partnership with Alinta Energy as we seek to lower emissions from our WA iron ore business.”

Alinta Energy MD and CEO, Jeff Dimery, said that BHP was once again demonstrating strong leadership in the transition to net zero.

“This is exactly the kind of leadership, progress and smart use of renewables and storage that we need from companies like BHP to show the way forward for Australia,” he said. “We’re excited to get the project underway and thank BHP for their partnership and vision.”

Zenith Energy, Liontown go big with proposed hybrid power plan at Kathleen Valley lithium project

Zenith Energy and Liontown Resources have partnered on what they say is Australia’s largest off-grid renewable energy hybrid power station project.

The letter of award between the two companies covers a potential contract to build, own, and operate the hybrid power station in Australia at Liontown’s Kathleen Valley Project in Western Australia.

The award will see Zenith Energy construct a 95 MW hybrid power station at Kathleen Valley in the Goldfields-Esperance region, which includes 30 MW of wind capacity, 16 MWp fixed axis solar PV array and a 17 MW/19 MWh battery energy storage system (BESS).

Kathleen Valley is one of the world’s largest and highest-grade hard-rock lithium deposits and, with an initial 2.5 Mt/y production capacity, is expected to supply circa-500,000 t/y of 6% lithium oxide concentrate, according to the company. With first production expected in June quarter of 2024, the deposit will also produce tantalum pentoxide.

Zenith Managing Director, Hamish Moffat, says the partnership will allow Zenith Energy to demonstrate its innovation, flexibility and expertise to deliver low-carbon emitting hybrid power solutions.

“Zenith Energy is proud to continue to play a lead role in the energy transition, and to provide like-minded partners with a glide path to net zero,” he said. “The project also further demonstrates Zenith Energy’s continued commitment to increasing the proportion of renewable generation in our portfolio.”

Artist impressions of what the Kathleen Valley site will look like (and above)

Moffat says the thermal components of the power station are designed to operate in ‘engine off’ mode at various times, delivering 100% renewable energy generation to Kathleen Valley.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to showcase our expertise, and the ability of renewables to deliver reliable, continuous supply, to power an entire mining operation,” he said. “It will once again raise the industry benchmark in renewable energy integration and demonstrates our commitment to power decarbonisation.”

Other unique aspects of the agreement include:

  • Largest off-grid hybrid power station in Australia: The hybrid power station is currently expected to have the largest off-grid renewable capacity of any mining project in the country, with 46 MW and 17 MW BESS; and
  • Renewable incentives: A combination of incentives to produce renewable power over thermal power together with a renewable energy guarantee will allow Liontown to meet and exceed its renewable energy factor target of 60% at startup and beyond.

Liontown Managing Director and CEO, Tony Ottaviano, says Liontown is delighted to partner with such an experienced and highly competent power producer.

“We believe Zenith Energy is an ideal partner to delivery an industry leading hybrid power station to meet Liontown’s energy needs and requirements for a high-capacity renewable solution,” Ottaviano said. “The hybrid power station proposed will enable Liontown to exceed our target of achieving at least 60% renewable energy at project start-up and beyond.”

Moffat says Zenith Energy is engaged with Traditional Owners, recently announcing a collaboration with Tjiwarl Contracting Services to work together to deliver low carbon emission power solutions for miners and communities on Tjiwarl native title determined lands.

Zenith Energy and Liontown have agreed key commercial terms and are working to finalise arrangements under a binding long term build, own and operate power purchase agreement.

ERG looks at green hydrogen, wind, solar power as part of decarbonisation efforts

Eurasian Resources Group is exploring the potential use of green hydrogen in its calcination kilns, as well as installing a portfolio of wind and solar power plants with an up to 6 GW capacity as part of its decarbonisation plans, according to Dr Alexander Machkevitch, Chairman of the Board of Directors.

During the plenary session of the Council for Foreign Affairs under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, titled, ‘Decarbonisation of the economy: Implementation of low-carbon technologies to identify environmental, social and governance settings (ESG),’ Dr Machkevitch, shared ERG’s ambitious plans to decarbonise its operations, including those with a focus on green hydrogen and renewable energy generation.

These efforts form an important part of the group’s ESG strategy and support Kazakhstan’s own national decarbonisation targets, it says.

Dr Machkevitch said: “Our environmental strategy includes around 40 projects across the group, embracing the development and application of new technological solutions such as the unique hybrid filter technology implemented at our plants together with thyssenkrupp. At ERG, we are exploring to replace fossil fuel oil in calcination kilns with green hydrogen, which can eliminate 100% of direct greenhouse gas emissions in this technological process. The group also plans to develop a portfolio of wind and solar electric power plants with total capacity of up to 6 GW.”

The group’s ESG 2030 goals include specific targets for reducing particulate emissions, waste and water use, with the three priorities being the reduction of particulate emissions by two-fold, the reduction of water consumption by a third, and the prevention of more than 2 Mt/y of CO2 emissions through the use of renewable energy sources. These activities will cost around $1.6 billion.

ERG’s decarbonisation commitments will significantly support national climate targets, it says. Kazakhstan plans to reduce national GHG emissions by 1.5% a year between 2022 and 2025, achieve a 15% reduction by 2030 and seek carbon neutrality in 2060.

Rio Tinto breaks ground on solar, wind power project at QMM in Madagascar

In accordance with the commitments made last July, Rio Tinto QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) and its partner, CrossBoundary Energy (CBE), have laid the foundation stone for the solar and wind power plant project that will supply the QMM ilmenite mine operations in Fort Dauphin, southern Madagascar.

The ceremony took place in the Ehoala Park area, in the presence of high dignitaries, including the Minister of Energy and Hydrocarbons, the Minister of Environment, the mayor of Fort-Dauphin and the Governor of the Anosy Region. The renewable energy project will go some way to helping operations in Madagascar reach carbon neutral status by 2023.

The renewable energy plant will be built and operated by CBE, an independent power producer with whom QMM has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement. The first unit, an 8 MW solar energy facility, will be operational in 2022. The 12 MW wind power facility will be completed in 2023. The project also includes an 8.25 MW lithium-ion battery energy storage system.

Around 18,000 solar panels and four wind turbines will enable QMM to meet all of its electricity needs during peak periods and up to 60% of its annual electricity consumption, as well as to reduce its annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 26,000 t, Rio said. In addition, the renewable power supply will reduce QMM’s heavy fuel oil purchases by up to 8,500 t/y. With this plant, QMM will also replace the majority of the electricity it currently supplies to the town of Fort-Dauphin and its 80,000 community members with clean energy.

Ny Fanja Rakotomalala, President of QMM, said: “This project is a key component of our ‘sustainable mine’ initiative, which aims to leave a lasting legacy for present and future generations, built independently of our mining operations. We want to leave this legacy through permanent dialogue, the full integration of activities within the development plan of the region, responsible social and environmental governance, the reduction of our environmental footprint and therefore of our carbon footprint, and through the creation of economic and social opportunities increasingly independent of QMM.

“This project is a strategic test, not only in Madagascar but also in the mining industry as a whole, as we have to innovate and rethink our operations in order to combat climate change and leave a sustainable legacy.”

Matt Tilleard, Managing Partner of CBE, said: “By establishing a commercial power plant that blends solar photovoltaic, battery energy storage and wind power, the QMM project greatly improves the island of Madagascar standing as a regional renewable energy leader. CBE is pleased to take up this technical challenge. We believe large-scale, complex commercial energy projects can be realised here in Madagascar thanks to ample supply of renewable resources, holistic government support and knowledgeable local implementing partners.”

Rio Tinto backs accelerated Scope 1 and 2 carbon emission cuts with $7.5 billion of investments

Rio Tinto has outlined a new target to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, more than tripling its previous target. To achieve this, it is setting aside around $7.5 billion of direct investments between 2022 and 2030.

Unveiled during an investor seminar this week, Rio said a 15% reduction in emissions is now targeted for 2025, five years earlier than previously stated, relative to its 2018 baseline of 32.6 Mt (CO2 equivalent – equity basis).

In recognition of the broader carbon footprint of the commodities it produces, Rio says it will accelerate its investment in R&D and development of technologies that enable its customers to decarbonise. Working in partnership with governments, suppliers, customers, academia and others, Rio intends to continue to develop technologies like ELYSIS™ for carbon-free aluminium and multiple pathways to produce green steel.

To meet additional demand created by the global drive to net zero emissions, Rio Tinto will prioritise growth capital in commodities vital for this transition with an ambition to double growth capital expenditure to about $3 billion a year from 2023, it said.

Rio Tinto can decarbonise, pursue growth and continue to deliver attractive returns to shareholders due to its strong balance sheet, world-class assets and focus on capital discipline, it explained.

Some key points from the presentation include:

  • Decarbonisation of the Pilbara will be accelerated by targeting the rapid deployment of 1 GW of wind and solar power. This would abate around 1 Mt of CO2, replace natural gas power for plant and infrastructure and support early electrification of mining equipment;
  • Full electrification of the Pilbara system, including all trucks, mobile equipment and rail operations, will require further gigawatt-scale renewable deployment and advances in fleet technologies
  • Options to provide a greener steelmaking pathway for Pilbara iron ore are being investigated, including with biomass and hydrogen;
  • Options are progressing to switch the Boyne Island and Tomago smelters in Australia to renewable energy, which will require an estimated circa-5 GW (equity basis) of solar and wind power, along with a robust “firming solution”;
  • Development of ELYSIS to eliminate carbon emissions from the smelting process is progressing, with commercial scale technology on track for 2024.

BHP closes in on renewable energy supply for Olympic Dam mine

BHP says it expects to shortly enter into renewable energy supply arrangements to enable the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia to reduce its emission position to zero for 50% of its electricity consumption by 2025, based on current forecast demand.

The arrangements will be supplied by Iberdrola, including from the Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park in South Australia, which is expected to be Australia’s largest solar-wind hybrid plant once in operation in July 2022.

BHP is to become the primary customer of this new renewable facility, with the renewable energy supply arrangements referred to including a retail agreement with Origin Energy, who will facilitate the arrangements.

This announcement follows BHP’s entry into renewable energy agreements for BHP’s operations in Western Australia in 2021, Queensland in 2020 and in Chile in 2019.

BHP Olympic Dam Asset President, Jennifer Purdie, said: “These arrangements will support an exciting new renewable energy project which will contribute to South Australia’s renewable energy ambitions.

“Olympic Dam’s copper has an important role to play to support global decarbonisation and the energy transition as an essential product in electric vehicles and renewable infrastructure. Reducing emissions from our operations will further enhance our position as a sustainable copper producer.”

Iberdrola Australia Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Ross Rolfe, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with BHP, helping them meet their decarbonisation and sustainability objectives. We worked very closely with BHP to design these bespoke renewable energy supply arrangements. Olympic Dam is to be the primary customer for the Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park, a demonstration of their commitment to local procurement and sustainable economic development.”

The arrangements, intended to commence on July 1, 2022, are one of the actions BHP is taking to contribute to its medium-term target to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1 and 2) from its operated assets by at least 30% from financial year 2020 levels by financial year 2030.

OZ Minerals wades into uncharted renewables territory at West Musgrave

You do not get much more remote than OZ Minerals’ West Musgrave copper-nickel project. Located in the Ngaanyatjarra Aboriginal Lands of central Western Australia, it is some 1,300 km northeast of Perth and 1,400 km northwest of Adelaide; near the intersection of the borders between Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The nearest towns include the Indigenous Communities of Jameson (Mantamaru), 26 km north; Blackstone (Papulankutja), 50 km east; and Warburton (Milyirrtjarra), 110 km west.

This makes the company’s ambition of developing a mine able to produce circa-32,000 t/y of copper and around 26,000 t/y of nickel in concentrates that leverages 100% renewable generation and can conduct ‘zero carbon mining’ even bolder.

OZ Minerals is not taking this challenge on by itself. In addition to multiple consultants and engineering companies engaged in a feasibility study, the company has enlisted the help of ENGIE Impact, the consulting arm of multinational electric utility company ENGIE, to come up with a roadmap that could see it employ renewable technologies to reach its zero ambitions.

“We’re providing an understanding of how they could decarbonise the mine to achieve a net zero end game,” Joshua Martin, Senior Director, Sustainability Solutions APAC, told IM.

While ENGIE Impact is focused solely on the energy requirements side of the equation at West Musgrave, its input will prove crucial to the ultimate sustainability success at West Musgrave.

Having worked with others in the mining space such as Vale’s New Caledonia operations (recently sold to the Prony Resources New Caledonia consortium), Martin says OZ Minerals is being “pretty ambitious” when it comes to decarbonisation.

“Our job is to assess if the renewable base case stacks up for West Musgrave, create multiple decarbonisation pathways for their consideration and look at what technology should be adopted to achieve their overall aims,” he said.

This latter element is particularly important for an off-grid project like West Musgrave, which is unlikely to start producing until around mid-2025 should a positive investment decision follow the upcoming feasibility study.

While solar, wind and battery back-up are all likely to play a role in the power plans at West Musgrave – technologies that are frequently factored into hybrid projects looking to wean themselves off diesel or heavy fuel oil use – more emerging technologies are likely to be factored into a roadmap towards 100% renewable adoption.

“We are developing a series of roadmaps that factor in where we think technologies will be in the future,” Martin said. “These roadmaps come with a series of decision gates where the company will need to take one option at that point in time if they are to pursue that particular decarbonisation pathway.”

These roadmaps utilise ENGIE Impact’s consulting and engineering nous, as well as the consultancy’s PROSUMER software (screenshot below) that is used on any asset-level decarbonisation project roadmap, according to Martin.

“This software was specifically built for that purpose,” Martin said. “There is nothing on the market like this.”

Progress at PFS level

OZ Minerals’ December 2020 prefeasibility study update went some way to mapping out its decarbonisation ambition for West Musgrave, with a 50 MW Power Purchase Agreement that involved hybrid renewables (wind, solar, battery, plus diesel or gas).

The company said in this study: “Modelling has demonstrated that circa 70-80% renewables penetration can be achieved for the site, with the current modelled to be an optimised mix of wind, solar and diesel supported by a battery installation.”

OZ Minerals said there was considerable upside in power cost through matching plant power demand with the availability of renewable supply (load scheduling), haulage electrification to maximise the proportion of renewable energy used, and the continued improvement in the efficiency of renewable energy solutions.

ENGIE Impact’s view on hydrogen and electric haulage in the pit may be considered here, complemented by the preliminary results coming out of the Electric Mine Consortium, a collaborative mine electrification project OZ Minerals is taking part in with other miners such as Evolution Mining, South32, Gold Fields and IGO. And, on the non-electric pathway, ENGIE Impact’s opinion is being informed by a study it is undertaking in collaboration with Anglo American on developing a “hydrogen valley” in South Africa.

If OZ Minerals’ early technology views are anything to go by, it is willing to take some risk when it comes to adopting new technology.

The preliminary flowsheet in the prefeasibility study factored in a significant reduction in carbon emissions and power demand through the adoption of vertical roller mills (VRMs) as the grinding mill solution, and a flotation component that achieves metal recovery at a much coarser grind size than was previously considered in the design.

Loesche is working with OZ Minerals on the VRM side, and Woodgrove’s Direct Flotation Reactors got a shout out in the process flowsheet.

While mining at West Musgrave is modelled to be conventional drill, blast, load and haul, the haulage fleet will comprise up to 25, 220 t haul trucks, with optionality being maintained to allow for these trucks to be fully autonomous in the future, OZ Minerals said.

‘True’ zero miners

OZ Minerals is aware of the statement it would make to industry if it were to power all this technology from renewable sources.

“With a future focus on developing a roadmap to 100% renewable generation, and reducing dependency upon fossil fuels over time, West Musgrave will become one of the largest fully off-grid, renewable powered mines in the world,” it said in the updated PFS. “The solution would result in the avoidance of in excess of 220,000 tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide emissions compared to a fully diesel-powered operation.”

The company’s Hybrid Energy Plant at Carrapateena in South Australia, whose initial setup includes solar PV, battery storage, diesel generation and a micro-grid controller, will provide a test case for this. This is a “unique facility designed to host experiments on how various equipment and energy technologies interact on an operating mine site”, the company says.

Martin and ENGIE Impact agree OZ Minerals is one of many forward-thinking mining companies striving for zero operations with a serious decarbonisation plan.

“The mining projects we are working on are all looking to achieve ‘true’ net zero operations, factoring in no offsets,” he said. “Having said that, I wouldn’t say the use of offsets is an ‘easy out’ for these companies. They can form part of the decarbonisation equation when they have a specific purpose, for instance, in trying to support indigenous communities.”

These industry leaders would do well to communicate with each other on their renewable ambitions, according to Martin. Such collaboration can help them all achieve their goals collectively, as opposed to individually. The coming together of BHP, Rio Tinto, Vale, Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden and Thiess for the ‘Charge on Innovation Challenge’ is a good example of this, where the patrons are pooling resources to come up with workable solutions for faster charging of large surface electric mining trucks.

“In the Pilbara, for example, there is a real opportunity to create a decarbonisation masterplan that seeks to capitalise on economies of scale,” he said. “If all the companies work towards that end goal collaboratively, they could achieve it much faster and at a much lower cost than if they go it alone.”

When it comes to OZ Minerals, the miner is clearly open to collaboration, whether it be with ENGIE Impact on decarbonisation, The Electric Mine Consortium with its fellow miners, the recently opened Hybrid Energy Plant at Carrapateena, the EU-funded NEXGEN SIMS project to develop autonomous, carbon-neutral mining processes, or through its various crowd sourcing challenges.

Wiluna Mining lays renewable energy groundwork with Contract Power extension

Wiluna Mining Corp has signed a 10-year contract extension with Contract Power Group that will see the power provider charge up the Wiluna Mining Operation in Western Australia until at least 2031.

The contract is geared towards meeting the forward needs of the Stage 1 development project at Wiluna, to provide a total rated power output of the power station of 14.1 MW. It will also re-configure the power station to increase gas generation and add a 2 MW battery energy storage unit to significantly reduce the need for back-up diesel generation, with four diesel generators being removed.

The new pact will also allow amortisation of costs over a longer period, therefore reducing Wiluna’s overall operating power charges; the company said.

And, when it comes to the Stage 2 development expansion project in 2023 at Wiluna, the contract will provide a solid base for a future mixed renewables power station, the company said.

Back in October, Wiluna Mining’s board gave the thumbs up to the Stage 1 development, which will see the company transition from its current production profile of producing 62,000 oz/y from mining free milling ore through the current 2.1 Mt/y carbon-in-leach processing facility, to initially producing 100,000-120,000 oz/y of gold and gold in concentrate. This will be implemented using the current, recently refurbished crushing circuit, the previously expanded mill circuit and a new 750,000 t/y concentrator by October 2021, the company said.

Wiluna then intends to increase production of gold and gold in concentrate by, at a minimum, doubling the mining rate and the concentrator to produce circa-250,000 oz/y by the end of 2023/early 2024 as part of Stage 2.

Contract Power, a subsidiary of Pacific Energy, has provided Wiluna’s power – a mix of natural gas and diesel power backup – since June 2016.

“Contract Power Group are experts in efficient generation of electrical power and in decarbonisation by harnessing off-grid wind or solar power,” Wiluna said. “Wiluna are refining its plans with Contract Power Group to include decarbonisation within our methods of power generation at site. This may also moderate our exposure to future volatility in the cost of hydrocarbon fuels.”

Wiluna will now focus on renewable power studies and options during 2021 and 2022 to:

  • Assess the right mix of renewables including solar, wind or pumped storage options;
  • Determine how best to integrate renewables into the total power delivery for an expanded operation; and
  • Optimise the decarbonisation of power generation with reliability and cost effectiveness.

Milan Jerkovic, Wiluna Mining’s Executive Chair, said: “We look forward to working with Contract Power to not only transitioning the Wiluna Mine once again into one of Australia’s biggest and most profitable gold mines, but to helping it become one of Australia’s cleanest mines.”

Anglo American and ENGIE agree on ‘green’ electricity supply for Quellaveco

Anglo American and ENGIE’s Peru-based subsidiary have signed an agreement to convert the current contracted energy supply for the Quellaveco copper project to 100% renewable sources, in addition to agreeing on another eight years of energy supply for the mine, starting in 2029, from “green energy” inputs.

The agreement will see Quellaveco, a copper project being developed by Anglo and Mitsubishi Corp, become the first mining operation to promote the construction of a non-conventional renewable energy plant, according to ENGIE.

As part of the pact, ENGIE Energía Perú has agreed to convert the total electricity supply for Quellaveco (187 MW) to 100% green energy, with 150 MW of supply over eight years from 2029 also coming from green energy sources.

ENGIE Energía Perú will source the renewable energy from its Punta Lomitas wind power plant, an in-development wind farm with a joint nominal capacity of 260 MW located in Ocucaje-Ica and a 60 km transmission line connecting the plant with the National Interconnected Electric System. The project has been granted a generation and transmission concession by the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and construction is expected to start in the second half of 2021, the company says.

Tom McCulley, CEO of Anglo American in Peru, said: “We are working from different areas to contribute to a healthy environment. Our goal is to transform the very nature of the industry to ensure a safer, cleaner and more sustainable future.

“By resorting to the use of higher precision technologies, such as those that Quellaveco will have, as well as by focusing on consuming less energy and less water, we will reduce our environmental footprint for every kilogram of copper that we produce, starting in 2022.”

Rik De Buyserie, CEO of ENGIE Energía Peru, added: “Thanks to the renewable energy certificates delivered by the Punta Lomitas Power Plant to supply the demand for the Quellaveco project, we are proud and committed to accompany our client Anglo American and mining in Peru, on their path to carbon neutrality.”

Quellaveco, owned 60% by Anglo and 40% by Mitsubishi Corp, comes with a production blueprint of 300,000 t/y of copper over the first 10 years of the mine, with first production expected in 2022.

Renewable energy use can bring savings to Africa mining sector, report claims

THEnergy and Voltalia’s latest report on the use of renewable energy in the Africa mining sector says the industry can realise significant cost savings when employing these power solutions.

The authors said the mining sector has shifted from phase one – where the focus of renewable power adoption was on integrating and testing out the reliability of these solutions – to phase two – where potential cost savings are being considered.

“In the last few years, more and more mining companies have adopted wind and solar systems to reduce their energy costs at remote off-grid mines,” THEnergy and Voltalia said. “In this first phase, the initial focus was on the integration capabilities as miners were afraid that adding intermittent renewables such as solar and wind could affect the reliability of power supply and even lead to production losses.”

In various microgrid applications, renewables combined with diesel, heavy fuel oil (HFO), or gas have proven to provide reliable power supply to remote mines, according to the two firms.

“For almost all mines, the integration of renewables will have a positive impact on their energy cost position. Mining companies do not have to invest their own money; independent power providers (IPPs) invest in the renewable energy infrastructure and sell electricity to mines through power purchase agreements (PPAs),” THEnergy and Voltalia explained.

Thomas Hillig, Managing Director of THEnergy, a consultancy focused on microgrids/mini-grids and off-grid renewable energy, said this second market phase is characterised by price competition.

“With the support of a leading renewable energy player, the new report analyses how IPPs can offer extremely competitive PPAs to remote miners,” he said.

Large IPPs take advantage of economies of scale on components for solar and wind power plants not only for remote mining projects but also for much bigger grid-connected plants, the two firms said.

“Market leaders have managed to optimise the planning and construction processes substantially. However, conducting projects in remote locations, especially in Africa, requires an extended experience,” they added. Among the challenges of undertaking projects in Africa is financing, which requires relationships with local and international banks, according to THEnergy and Voltalia.

“Cost optimisation does not necessarily mean minimising capital expenditure but rather focusing on the total lifetime of the project and including operation and maintenance. It is also important to take the interplay of the different energy sources into consideration. Not every kWh of solar and wind energy generated means equivalent fossil fuel savings. When gensets run at suboptimal loads, they lose efficiency and require additional maintenance,” the two firms said.

Alexis Goybet, Head of Hybrid Solutions at Voltalia, a player in the renewable energy sector, said his company has much experience in renewable energy projects, including solar-diesel hybrid microgrids, projects in remote locations and in developing countries.

“Our experience adds up to our economies of scale in procurement and translates into significant overall cost-reductions in the range of 20-30% in comparison to new market entrants,” he said.

These overall cost reductions will make solar and wind energy extremely attractive for many mines, according to the two firms, with the number of remote mines adding renewables to diesel, HFO or gas expected to grow quickly all over Africa.

There are already several mining companies that have made – or are planning to make – this transition in Africa, as can be seen by the map above (credit: THEnergy, Voltalia). This includes Resolute Mining and its Syama underground gold mine in Mali, Newmont Mining and its Akyem gold mine in Ghana and B2Gold and its Otjikoto operation in Namibia.

In the past month alone, Barrick Gold and GoviEx Uranium have also stated plans to use hybrid solutions at their Loulo and Madaouela assets, respectively.