The rising role of renewable energy storage solutions in mining operations

Green Energy


Off-grid mining provides a number of challenges to operators, and none more so than energy supply. Mining operations that are isolated from the grid need actionable energy storage solutions to ensure operations don't stagnate, while keeping costs to a minimum. 
 
Off-grid mining operations are beginning to demand renewable energy storage solutions. 
 
To help, we've compiled two energy challenges that mining operations face and the renewable and energy storage solutions they could implement.

 

1. Rising costs of base load supply

Mining is a central component of the global energy pipeline. Ironically, the mining industry is also one of the biggest overall energy consumers. In fact, it is estimated that 10 per cent of world energy consumption is used for extracting and processing mineral resources. 
 
While diesel tends to be the fuel of choice for most off-grid operations, it can be expensive to haul over long distances and at times can attract carbon tax requirements and environmental permitting. Mining companies also have to contend with price volatility and energy security risks that come concomitant with fossil fuels.
 
A recent study by German-based Apricum showed that in the right conditions fuel savings for the mining industry could be doubled with the integration of energy storage solutions. Storing the energy produced in an off-grid application can reduce risk created by costly transport, volatile fuel prices and supply bottlenecks. 

 

2. Energy security

Mines operate day in, day out and operators expect a reliable and accessible power supply, while also having a very low tolerance for outages or shortfalls. Many mines turn to a combination of renewable generation solutions and fossil fuel to meet their needs. One example is the 10.6 MW solar PV plant at Sandfire's DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine. 
 
"The DeGrussa Solar Power Project has the potential to reduce the mine's diesel consumption and is consistent with our relentless focus on driving down costs," Sandfire Managing Director, Karl Simich said.
 
What's more, the mining industry is moving further and further towards automation, requiring more energy than ever before. Just take Rio Tinto: It introduced Komatsu autonomous trucks in 2011, cab-less drills in 2012 and an autonomous drilling system in 2014. 
 
By moving away from dependency on expensive fossil fuels like diesel, mining operations may be better insulated against price volatility while increasing system redundancy and increasing the level of reliability. 
 
Unlike other cost-cutting avenues, energy presents far less resistance than the next largest cost factor, labour. Through renewable and energy storage solutions, mining companies can work towards reducing their overall power bill and increasing their energy security.
 
As each mining operation has different characteristics and requirements, independent and thorough assessment is essential in solving site by site energy needs. As such, expert advice is a must. If you would like to know more about renewable energy storage integration, make sure you talk to the experts at Vector Energytoday.