Renewable energy, in particular solar and wind, could be a viable option to address the power generation requirements in the mining sector, says a new study by PFISTERER and THEnergy.
Solar and wind microgrids could deliver cost-effective power storage, thereby reducing the reliance on diesel-based gensets, says the study, “Mobile Solar and Wind Diesel Hybrid Solutions for Mineral Exploration.“
Since most mines are located in remote terrains, access to conventional electricity becomes a huge challenge, so gensets working on diesel are used. However, in some cases diesel needs to be transported over a long distance by truck or helicopter, making it highly expensive.
Over the last decade, the cost of solar and wind has declined dramatically. Renewable energy could potentially contribute substantial cost savings in comparison to diesel power, the study says.
One of the main challenges consists of dealing with the relatively long lifetime of traditional renewable energy power plants. They are normally laid out for operations of 25 years or more. Mineral exploration camps typically cover only a relatively short part of the mining value chain.
Power requirements are still low in comparison to the consequent extraction operations. Often, mineral exploration is performed by specialized exploration companies. Finally, at the exploration stage, there is no guarantee of finding enough mineral deposits to justify setting up a mining infrastructure.
All the factors demonstrate that exploration companies have no interest in committing to 25 or more years of electricity supply at specific sites. Exploration companies require semi-portable, flexible solutions that minimize the effort of dismantling them and rebuilding them at a new location.
In the wake of this scenario, PFISTERER has developed a containerized microgrid solution tailored to the needs of the exploration sector. They can be redeployed easily and are reliable, says Martin Schuster, senior advisor at PFISTERER.
The same microgrid system works for military applications.
An integrated storage component ensures the reliability of the system. It improves the power quality, allowing the shift of energy during periods with insufficient wind or solar irradiation, company officials said.
“The advantages of renewable energy use go well beyond pure cost factors. Exploration companies send a strong signal to the regulator which could be very useful for obtaining mining licenses,” said Thomas Hillig, CEO of the Microgrid Consultancy THEnergy.