Renewable hybrid microgrid to power WA goldmine
A renewable hybrid microgrid incorporating wind, solar, battery and gas power is under construction at a WA goldmine. Claimed to be the first Australian mine to be powered by a microgrid, the system at the Gold Fields-owned Agnew Gold Mine is expected to provide 55 to 60% of the mine’s energy requirements, with the potential to meet almost all energy requirements at certain times.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $13.5 million in funding to develop the microgrid, which will consist of a 18 MW wind farm powered by five wind turbines, a 10,000-panel 4 MW solar farm and a 13 MW/4 MWh battery energy storage system. To ensure security and reliability, the microgrid will be underpinned by a 16 MW gas-engine power station.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project marks a growing shift in thinking around powering mine sites.
“The project Gold Fields is undertaking will provide a blueprint for other companies to deploy similar off-grid energy solutions and demonstrate a pathway for commercialisation, helping to decarbonise the mining and resources sector,” he said.
“ARENA is continuing to help build a business case for renewables in mining, which has been underlined by other successful projects such as Rio Tinto’s Weipa project and Sandfire Resources’ DeGrussa Solar Project, reducing their fuel consumption by up to 20%.
“We’re excited to see more mining companies taking up renewable options and Gold Fields’ project comprising solar, wind and battery is helping to position into a more reliable and sustainable energy supply to call upon for the life of the mine,” Miller said.
Gold Fields is set to adopt operational practices such as dynamic load shedding, renewable resource forecasting and IPP-controlled load management to maximise renewable energy use while maintaining system security.
Gold Fields Australia Executive Vice President Stuart Mathews said, “The Agnew hybrid microgrid project reflects the company’s strategic objective to strengthen energy security, optimise energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint through innovation and the adoption of new technologies. The ARENA contribution significantly supports and encourages our efforts.”
Sustainable distributed energy producer EDL will design, construct, own and operate the microgrid to power the Agnew Gold Mine in two stages, under a 10-year agreement with Gold Fields. The first stage involving a new off-grid power station incorporating gas, diesel generation and solar is due to be completed in mid 2019. The second stage including the wind, battery and microgrid system recently started construction and will be completed in 2020.
EDL CEO James Harman said the company had seen increasing momentum towards hybrid energy solutions, particularly in remote off-grid locations.
“EDL is pleased to be an active contributor to Australia’s transition to sustainable energy,” Harman said.
“Our strong base of knowledge and experience from our successful hybrid renewable projects will enable us to provide Agnew Gold Mine with greater than 50% renewable energy over the long term, without compromising power quality or reliability.”
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