Construction of the world’s largest off-grid solar, battery and diesel hybrid plant is underway at the DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine NL in Western Australia. The solar hybrid park, pioneered by juwi’s Australian subsidiary, will consist of a fully integrated 10.6MW solar park and a 6MW battery facility.
Comprising of 30,000 solar modules, the solar hybrid park will be constructed over 20 hectares of land. The site is located 900km north of Perth at the current underground mine site, owned by Sandfire Resources NL.
Funding for the $40 million (ZAR497 million) project is being coordinated by juwi, which will own and operate the facility that is expected to be commissioned by early 2016.
Solar hybrid design
The integrated solar hybrid design allows the diesel power station to respond quickly to the mine’s needs when base-load power is required for the process plant and underground operation. In addition, the 6MW battery storage facility will be optimised for the highest efficiency of the plant’s performance.
The South African subsidiary of the company, juwi Renewables Energies, is tracking the performance of the Australian solar hybrid installation to assess the potential to apply the solution in Africa.
Greg Austin, managing director of juwi South Africa, explains: “In places with a lot of sunshine, like Africa and Australia, solar power is considerably cheaper than power from conventional diesel generators during the day, when it can be used directly, supplying up to 40% of the daytime energy demands.
“Solar/diesel hybrid systems are currently considered state-of-the-art for micro-grids, delivering the lowest overall cost of power while guaranteeing power availability around the clock, at the same time reducing the fuel bill by 35-40%.”
Viability of solar hybrid solutions
Since diesel generators are the current base load power option for many remote mines, high diesel costs are expected to impact severely on the extraction of mineral reserves throughout Africa. Renewables could boost the viability of mines, increasing profitability and potentially extending the lifespan of marginal operations.
According to Austin the solar/diesel hybrid solution is a first step toward a 100% solar solution with battery backup: “There are fewer than 100 projects globally that combine the solar/diesel solution, but in mining there are fewer than 10, so this is cutting edge technology.”
In Namibia, the company installed a similar solar hybrid system to supply public buildings and around 100 private households with clean solar power. With a total capacity of 200kW peak, a battery storage of 1MW and three integrated diesel generators it is one of Africa’ s largest off-grid solar power systems.
“Low cost renewable energy is competitive with traditional fossil fuels in many off-grid and mining applications globally and solar/diesel hybrids can cut fuel bills by more than a third. That’s a massive saving and a competitive advantage,” said Austin.