POW­ER­ING THE MINES OF TO­MOR­ROW

Min­ing com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly turn­ing to re­new­able en­ergy as a so­lu­tion to es­ca­lat­ing power costs across their op­er­a­tions.

The Australian Mining Review - - RENEWABLE ENERGY - ELIZ­A­BETH FABRI

THE rise of re­new­able en­ergy in min­ing was a key theme of the 2017 In­ter­na­tional Min­ing and Re­sources Con­fer­ence (IMARC) held in Mel­bourne early Novem­ber.

The Fu­ture En­ergy-Aus­tralia por­tion of the con­fer­ence in­cluded dis­cus­sions on fi­nanc­ing re­new­able en­ergy projects for mines, so­lar and stor­age as an in­creas­ingly af­ford­able and vi­able en­ergy so­lu­tions, re­shap­ing so­lar to meet the min­ing sec­tor’s needs, and off grid and mi­cro grid in­fra­struc­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Australian So­lar Coun­cil chief executive John Grimes, who pre­sented at the con­fer­ence, said so­lar pho­to­voltaics were now the cheap­est way to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity, with prices glob­ally as low as $22 per megawatt hour.

“In an Australian set­ting, around $50 per megawatt hour is more re­al­is­tic,” Mr Grimes said.

“Elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by diesel gen­er­a­tors is well above $300 per megawatt hour, (with some as high as $600 per megawatt hour).

“Com­bin­ing so­lar PV with bat­tery stor­age, mine sites can ac­cess se­cure, re­li­able power at a frac­tion of the cost of diesel gen­er­a­tion.”

Mr Grimes said mine sites in Aus­tralia and around the world, were typ­i­cally com­bin­ing so­lar PV, bat­tery stor­age with ex­ist­ing diesel gen­er­a­tors.

“So­lar is also be­ing used across ac­com­mo­da­tion, por­ta­ble light­ing, re­mote mon­i­tor­ing sites and else­where as a cheaper al­ter­na­tive to in­stalling trans­mis­sion lines,” he said.

“An­other big op­por­tu­nity for Australian min­ing is the global boom in lithium-ion bat­ter­ies.

“With 33 per cent of global re­serves of lithium lo­cated in Aus­tralia we may soon see lithium ex­ported from Aus­tralia turned into bat­ter­ies that in turn power the mine sites of the fu­ture.”

Sand­fire Re­sources, for ex­am­ple, was one of the first movers in Aus­tralia to use re­new­able en­ergy in an off-grid min­ing ap­pli­ca­tion.

Its WA DeGrussa mine is home to a $40 mil­lion so­lar pro­ject com­pris­ing 34,080 so­lar PV pan­els span­ning more than 20 hectares.

The pan­els are con­nected to a 6MW lithium-ion bat­tery stor­age fa­cil­ity and the ex­ist­ing 19MW diesel-fired power sta­tion at DeGrussa via an ex­ten­sive net­work of low-volt­age, high-volt­age and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ca­bles.

The so­lar pro­ject sup­plies about 20 per cent of the an­nual power re­quire­ments of the DeGrussa mine and cut its emis­sions by about 12,000 tonnes of car­bon diox­ide a year.

Hori­zon Power managing director Frank Tu­dor, who also spoke at Fu­ture En­ergy-Aus­tralia, said the up­take of new tech­nolo­gies was putting com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial con­sumers at the cen­tre of the elec­tric­ity mar­ket, but adding a level of com­plex­ity which was hard to man­age for in­dus­trial cus­tomers.

“It’s hard for the min­ing and re­sources in­dus­try to keep track of the dis­rup­tions oc­cur­ring in the en­ergy mar­ket and to man­age the pol­icy un­cer­tainty,” Mr Tu­dor said.

“The min­ing in­dus­try wants re­li­able, af­ford­able and sus­tain­able en­ergy to power their op­er­a­tions, and the de­clin­ing cost of re­new­ables has been seen as the key to managing this co­nun­drum.

“Yet re­tail prices keep go­ing up, as our reg­u­la­tory and pol­icy frame­works are strug­gling to keep pace with the in­no­va­tions in tech­nol­ogy.

“We fore­cast dis­trib­uted en­ergy re­sources will be­come the main source of en­ergy in the fu­ture, so the need for flex­i­bil­ity and in­no­va­tion is crit­i­cal at this point in time.”

Mr Tu­dor said mi­cro grids were self-suf­fi­cient elec­tric­ity net­works that could be em­bed­ded in, or be re­mote from, a larger net­work.

Th­ese grids en­able dis­trib­uted en­ergy re­sources, like so­lar pan­els and bat­ter­ies that are lo­cated away from a cen­tral power sta­tion, to feed into the net­work.

“Com­bin­ing so­lar PV with bat­tery stor­age, mine sites can ac­cess se­cure, re­li­able power at a frac­tion of the cost of diesel gen­er­a­tion.”

“Mi­cro­grids are a means of get­ting the most out of all man­ner of dis­trib­uted en­ergy re­sources, and when in­te­grated prop­erly, un­lock the po­ten­tial for tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, cost-sav­ing mea­sures, and more re­new­able and en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly en­ergy op­tions in the net­work,” Mr Tu­dor said.

PRO­JECT IN FO­CUS Lake­land So­lar and Stor­age

Aus­tralia’s re­new­able en­ergy in­dus­try is grow­ing at a rapid pace, yet there are still knowl­edge gaps when it comes to large-scale so­lar PV and bat­tery stor­age ser­vic­ing fringe-of-grid re­gions.

Con­ergy’s $42.5 mil­lion Lake­land So­lar and Stor­age pro­ject in far North Queens­land is cur­rently test­ing a num­ber of bat­tery op­er­a­tion modes and will share lessons learnt with in­dus­try part­ners.

While not lo­cated on a mine site, the pro­ject is the first Australian util­ity-scale so­lar and stor­age fa­cil­ity built on the out­skirts of the elec­tric­ity grid; an area typ­i­cally prone to en­ergy re­li­a­bil­ity chal­lenges.

It com­prises a 13 megawatt (MW), 41,440 panel so­lar ar­ray; 1.4MW lithium-ion bat­tery stor­age ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing up to 5.3 megawatt-hours (MWh) of en­ergy; and a smart sys­tem con­troller to fa­cil­i­tate con­sis­tent power sup­ply for the Lake­land com­mu­nity.

Con­ergy’s Knowl­edge Shar­ing Pro­gram (KSP) will share po­ten­tial learn­ings with pro­ject stake­hold­ers, the Australian Re­new­able En­ergy Agency (ARENA), min­ing gi­ant BHP, Er­gon En­ergy and Ori­gin En­ergy who will be buy­ing power from the plant.

Con­ergy managing director Christo­pher West said the com­pany was “very pleased” that BHP was tak­ing an ac­tive part in the Lake­land So­lar and Stor­age KSP to fur­ther in­ves­ti­gate the use of re­li­able re­new­able en­ergy tech­nolo­gies as part of their op­er­a­tions in re­mote and off-grid mine sites.

Image: Con­ergy.

The Lake­land So­lar and Stor­age Pro­ject in far North Queens­land.

Image: Sand­fire Re­sources.

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