Wind and Solar fights for place as mining’s primary energy resource
Source: Jason Blackeye
Wind and solar energy is growing in the mining sector, with applications available in every stage of the process. Prices of solar and wind plants are decreasing to the point that it is now competitive with coal-fired power stations. Chile and Morocco, with their excellent wind and solar resources, have already reached a turning point from coal. From exploration to digging, alternative sources of power are looking more appetizing to mining companies.
Reducing costs and theft vulnerabilities.
A study released by THEnergy reported that solar and wind energy can reduce costs in exploration phases by up to 80%. These sources of power are especially important during exploration due to their remote nature. Although brownfield exploration can usually siphon off energy from an existing mine, the other three exploration types (greenfield, grassroots, and advanced) are usually remote and require their own energy systems. Generally companies turn to diesel to fuel the camp’s electricity, but this can be a costly issue. Combined factors of remote locations, taxes, inefficient generators, and possible theft, diesel proves to be less than reliable.
Facing the challenges of renewable energy.
Wind farms established around mines are proving to save considerable amounts of fuel cost. Diavik Diamond released their 2015 Sustainable Development Report, outlining the wind farm saved around $6 million that year. With only four turbines, Diavik was able to reduce its CO2 output by over 14,000 tonnes, generated over 20 gigawatt hours, and during peak power levels enough energy was produced to power its underground mine.
Once constructed, giant wind turbines can last decades. The long life-spans of renewable sources proves to be a challenge when it comes to mining exploration. Although this is optimal for full-force mining operations, this can be tricky for a two-year affairs. Luckily microgrids, local, autonomous energy grids with solar panel technology, have been created as a solution. Microgrids are portable, with movable solar panels that feed into the main power system. Systems such as these can drastically reduce the bottom line in mining exploration missions, all while saving the world.