The Australian Mining Review


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


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: Conergy. The Lakeland Solar and Storage Project in far North Queensland.
 ?? Image: Sandfire Resources. ??
Image: Sandfire Resources.

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