WA mine to be powered by solar

Tuesday, 21 July, 2015

WA mine to be powered by solar

Sandfire Resources’ DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine in Western Australia will soon be the site of a 10.6 MW solar PV installation. The $40 million project is set to be the largest integrated off-grid solar power system to be used in the mining industry anywhere in the world.

The project is a combination of a high-capacity solar power array which will be fully integrated with an existing 19 MW diesel-fired power station. It will involve the installation of 34,080 solar PV panels covering over 20 ha, plus single-axis tracking and 6 MW of battery storage to maximise the use of solar power. The diesel power station will continue to provide base-load power to the mine, with sufficient minimum load to ensure it can respond quickly to meet the power requirements of the process plant and underground mine.

Solar engineering company juwi will perform all engineering, procurement, construction, operation and maintenance on the project, which is owned by renewable energy firm Neoen. Online assembly will be undertaken in conjunction with Perth-based contractor OTOC. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has committed up to $15 million in debt finance, while the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide $20.9 million in funding support.

Aerial view of the DeGrussa mine.

The facility is designed to provide the majority of Sandfire’s daytime electricity requirements, offsetting about 5 million litres of diesel fuel per annum — more than 20% of total diesel consumption — and abating over 12,000 tonnes of CO2-e. Under a six-year power purchase agreement, Sandfire will purchase the solar power at a fixed rate that is lower than the historical cost of diesel-generated power. If the mine continues operating past this point, the ARENA funding will be paid back as the plant continues to generate solar energy.

“ARENA support will help overcome the early-mover costs currently facing renewable mining projects,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. “The undertaking at DeGrussa is supported by modelling showing similar projects could be viable without government subsidies in the near future.”

Aerial view of the DeGrussa mine (close up).

“The Sandfire project shows that it is economically viable to use solar power in combination with battery storage on a large scale,” added Amiram Roth-Deblon, juwi’s regional director for Asia Pacific. “From a technical perspective, the project demonstrates that even a mine in the Australian outback can be safely and reliably supplied with solar power.”

The facility is expected to be fully operational in 2016.

Top image caption: Artist’s impression of the solar installation and diesel power station.

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