Meeting in the middle

As with any aspect of a mine, generating power each day involves a number of different elements coming together at the right time, notwithstanding possible risks, how power needs might change over time and understanding how power consumption can affect profit margins.

The key to getting the right source of power to a minesite is understanding what the different types of power generation are and how they can be of benefit.

Simply connecting to the grid is not a feasible solution for a great many mines in Australia, which are usually in remote locations far from the nearest powerline.

“Flexibility is an important consideration, as a site can have varying demands for power throughout its lifecycle,” Aggreko AusPac Managing Director George Whyte said.

“Temporary power lends itself well to particularly remote and extreme environments, including perhaps where a grid connection isn’t viable.”

Diesel power generation is popular at remote mining locations with limited access to grid infrastructure, however, two of the biggest issues with this are the cost and volatility of oil prices making it difficult to adequately manage and protect profit margins and the impact on the environment.

“Working in partnership with mining companies to develop a reliable, future-proof energy source is a priority and a worthwhile investment for onsite power providers,” Mr Whyte said.

One such solution some miners may not have considered is a hybrid system that combines the best attributes of thermal-generated power with renewable sources to power the mine.

Hybrid energy solutions are continuing to be developed and implemented within the mining industry.

“Using hybrid power generation for onsite mining operations offers many positives and, as developments in renewable energy technologies continue to advance, hybrid solutions are starting to show how they can be beneficial,” Mr Whyte said.

Hybrid solutions enable diesel or gas generators to operate lower loads, which reduces operating and maintenance requirements. This is achieved by prioritising the alternative power source, such as solar, with the diesel generator kicking in only when the alternative energy source becomes intermittent.

“Integrating hybrid power solutions to existing thermal power-generation systems can cut mining companies’ energy costs significantly,” Mr Whyte said.

The construction of a complete hybrid solution is currently underway at Gold Fields’ Granny Smith gold mine in Laverton, Western Australia. Gold Fields plans to use a combination of gas, solar and battery storage power as part of a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint and use renewables for at least 20 per cent of total life-of-mine power requirements in new projects.

Aggreko has been awarded the contract to integrate 7.3 megawatts of solar power generation and 2MW/1MW- per-hour battery storage with the existing gas supply as a hybrid power station.

“This unique energy package combines solar, thermal and battery storage that’s seamlessly integrated and managed by our powerful software platform – guaranteeing full system availability and optimising Gold Field’s existing thermal asset’s life,” Mr Whyte said.

“Using the latest hybrid energy technologies will enable Gold Fields to significantly lower its total cost of energy and reduce its carbon footprint while demonstrating its ongoing commitment to both environmental sustainability and innovation at its operations.

“All of this without compromising the reliability of power supply and productivity of the mine.”

Image: The proposed hybrid power development at Granny Smith.

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