Solar PV plant to power nickel-copper operation in WA

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As miners become increasingly aware of the rapidly falling costs of renewables, solar PV installations are becoming a trend at remote mining sites.

The latest to join the growing poll of miners turning to renewables is Independence Group (IGO), which has amended its PPA with Zenith Energy to incorporate a 6.7 MW solar PV plant at the Nova mine in Western Australia.

With the estimated annual generation of 12.5 GWh annually, the solar facility will allow IGO to meet the power needs of the nickel-copper-cobalt mine. The system will be added to the existing diesel power station operated by Zenith at the mining site.    

“At IGO we believe in the green energy future and are committed to renewable energy sources as we strive to reduce our carbon footprint,” said IGO Managing Director Peter Bradford.

“The development of this innovative hybrid energy solution will also improve our cost structure with targeted renewable power insertion of up to 50% of demand via the solar PV facility.“

According to the agreement, Zenith will build, own and operate a hybrid diesel/solar PV power station of approximately 26 MW in installed capacity to reliably and efficiently service the power needs of the Nova Operation.

The integrated solar PV facility is expected to be commissioned in the first quarter of Q1 FY20 with an initial supply period of six years and an option for IGO to extend for a further two years.

“This development represents the first fully integrated commercial hybrid diesel/solar PV facility in Australia and is a step forward in future renewable energy solutions,“ said Zenith Energy’s Managing Director, Hamish Moffat.

Overall, this will be one of Australia’s largest solar installation in a remote, off-grid mining operation.

The largest one to date is the DeGrussa project – a hybrid system at Sandfire’s copper and gold mine site in Western Australia, which comprises a 10.6 MW solar facility coupled with a 6 MWh battery facility – integrated with an existing diesel generator.

Earlier this year, South32 announced its plans to deploy a 3 MW solar farm at its Cannington lead mine in north-west Queensland. The solar installation is being integrated into the current gas power station.

Nova is located in the Fraser Range of Western Australia, 360km southeast of Kalgoorlie. It produced 22,258t of nickel and 9,545t of copper in its first full year of production in FY18.