Construction on largest off-grid solar/battery/diesel plant commences

A combined hybrid power plant has the potential to save a mining operation millions of dollars over the mine's life and reduce its carbon footprint considerably.Pioneering this solution is juwi's Australian subsidiary, who has just started construction on the world's largest off-grid solar/battery/diesel plant: a fully integrated 10.6MW solar park plus 6MW battery facility at DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine in Western Australia, which is owned by Sandfire Resources NL.


Quick response

The 10.6MW hybrid system comprises over 30,000 solar modules constructed over 20ha of land near the site of the current underground mine, located 900km north of Perth. The integrated system will be designed with the diesel power station continuing 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. Battery storage and utilisation of energy in the 6MW battery system will be optimised for highest efficiency and plant performance.

juwi Renewables Energies, juwi's South Africa subsidiary, is tracking the performance of the Australian installation very carefully as there is enormous potential to apply the hybrid solution in Africa.

"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%," juwi South Africa, MD Greg Austin, explains.

"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.

High diesel costs

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.

The innovative $40 million project, which will be the largest integrated off-grid solar array in Australia, has the potential to establish DeGrussa as an industry leader in the use of renewable power for mining and processing operations. Funding is being coordinated by juwi, which will own and operate the facility.

The Sandfire project is the first in the mining sector of this size and is expected to be commissioned in early 2016.