Australian mining companies are harnessing the power of solar energy for use at mining sites across the country.
The use of solar power in the mining industry is a growing trend, with the benefits of reliability and efficiency hard to overlook.
Earlier this year, China turned on the world’s biggest floating solar power plant in Huainan, in the country’s east.
Mining sites use a lot of energy and are often in remote areas where they aren’t connected to the power grid, which can be costly and can pose challenges such as transport and logistics. Supplementing with solar power can help cut costs significantly and increase the reliability of their energy supply.
In 2016, a 24-hour statewide blackout in South Australia forced Oz Minerals to stockpile copper ore at its Prominent Hill mine and halted production at BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine for nearly two weeks.
Rio Tinto commissioned Australia’s first commercial diesel displacement solar plant in 2015. The Weipa Solar Plant produces about 2800 megawatt hours of electricity per year and, at peak output, can generate enough electricity to power up to 20 percent of the township’s daytime electricity demand.
The company said that would reduce Weipa’s greenhouse gas emissions by around 1600 tonnes per year — the equivalent of removing around 700 cars. The energy produced is estimated to reduce the diesel usage at Weipa’s power stations and save up to 600,000 liters of diesel each year.
Last year Sandfire Resources commissioned a $40m integrated off-grid solar and battery storage facility at its DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine, covering more than 20 hectares, the biggest in Australia.
Sandfire expects the solar plant will cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Oz Minerals has indicated it could turn to solar power to help run its Carrapateena Mine, after the South Australian blackout that disrupted its operations last year.
Because it presents attractive solutions to cost and energy security especially in remote areas, it is more likely that more mining companies will jump on solar power in the near future.