03.03.2017 / Press releases, Press, South Africa
With the African Mining Indaba taking place in Cape Town this week, juwi Renewable Energies MD Greg Austin gave some thought to the compelling solutions that photovoltaic (PV) solar power offers the mining industry in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Austin believes that a 2-3% saving to the bottom line can be directly attributable to energy cost savings, through the use of solar power in pure self-consumption mode replacing diesel or heavy fuel oil (HFO). Energy costs can be up to as much as 30% of the operating cost on a mine. Pure self-consumption solar power generators can replace 7-10% of the (diesel-generated) electricity cost and this saving goes straight to the bottom line, resulting in a 2-3% gross profit benefit.
Integrating solar PV into power stations clearly makes good sense. By synchronizing a photovoltaic plant to an existing captive diesel mini-grid, mines can reduce diesel consumption dramatically during the day. De Grussa Copper-Gold Mine, situated in Western Australia, is the largest hybrid and off-grid system in the world where juwi’s integration of solar PV and diesel resulted in a 20% reduction in diesel consumption. De Grussa is expected to produce 300,000 tonnes of high-grade copper concentrate annually.
On a mine in Limpopo, South Africa, solar PV supplies 60% of the 1.6 megawatts of power required. In this high solar irradiation area, the cost of solar PV electricity is roughly half that of diesel over the 20-year operating life of a typical plant. Buying electricity at half the price is a pretty compelling argument as miners everywhere look for increasing efficiencies within their existing operations. The more remote the mine, the higher the fuel bill and it is not unlikely that the prospect of cheaper operating costs through solar power will lend viability to investment opportunities that would otherwise not be realized.
One of the drivers for the marked increase in interest for solar-diesel hybrids that juwi is seeing is related to the steep cost reduction of solar modules over the past 12 months, where costs have reduced by some 30%. With the cost of the solar panels accounting for about half of the system cost, this is an effective facility cost reduction of 15%.
Presently the cost of running a mine is dependent on the internationally traded price of oil with the primary fuel for the mine being diesel or HFO. Herein lies the second clear advantage for miners, in that the long-term (twenty years plus) costs for the solar power contribution to their overall generation is known and secured in advance. As oil prices increase, no doubt erratically, this stability in pricing is of tremendous value from a planning perspective.
Reliability and predictability are big pluses for mines operating in Sub-Saharan Africa. Even for those mines that are grid connected, many are on unreliable and weak grids and the combination of PV and batteries makes for a reliable source of energy. Storage is always part of the discussion with mines, and as the price of batteries continues to drop, they will be increasingly incorporated into hybrid energy systems.
juwi is actively participating in this sub-Saharan Africa decentralised power supply market and with over twenty years’ experience in renewable energies (ten years with solar in Africa) they are well positioned to support your investments in the region with clean, reliable solar power.