PV meets miner expectations to power Mineral Resources’ WA site


Diesel use has been quickly reduced at the remote Wonmunna mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. Innovative mounting structure provider 5B deployed the 2.1 MW system in just two weeks, using five workers on site. The solar array is comprised of 45 preassembled 5B Mavericks comprising more than 4,000 solar panels.

The Wonmunna project was deployed in partnership with Western Australian integrated energy specialist UON.

The solar-plus-storage system features a 1 MWh battery and will underpin more than 30% of the mine’s power requirements per year, cutting annual diesel consumption by approximately 760,000 litres. Mineral Resources said the array will reduce the site’s carbon emissions by approximately 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

In summer months, the system is forecast to produce up to 1.5 times its current daily output, which would provide more than 40% of the site’s daily energy needs.

The iron-ore crusher at the site will be 100% powered by the system in the middle of the day, when renewable output meets peak plant load.

Net zero driver

Mineral Resources, which is also involved in lithium ore extraction, implemented its roadmap to net zero strategy in 2021, with the displacement of diesel fuels a key part of that strategy. Projects like Wonmunna will be integral in accelerating that process.

“MinRes is committed to pursuing renewable energy opportunities where we can and our team has been working hard to deliver a solar array and battery solution that delivers optimum output at Wonmunna,” Mineral Resources Chief Executive Darren Hardy said.

“Together with natural gas, renewables will play an important role in our energy future, and MinRes continues to pursue off-grid solar power and energy storage solutions to support our remote locations.”

While Mineral Resources operates a number of other facilities, Wonmunna is the miner’s first integrated solar microgrid system.

Mineral Resources’ upcoming Onslow Iron project, which is also located in the Pilbara region, will include renewable energy and battery storage systems.

The exact details of the types and scope of the technology to be deployed at Onslow are yet to be finalised, the company told pv magazine Australia.

Flexibility the key for 5B

The Wonmunna site was purchased by Mineral Resources in 2021 and is expected to be operational for 10 years. The company opted for the 5B Maverick technology because it can be deployed to other mine sites without the need for new mounting structures.

The 5B Maverick picked up the 2020 pv magazine BoS Award, with the judges pointing to the potential for redeployment as having value in some sectors.

5B’s Greg Fyffe: “The decommissioning of renewables is front of mind for miners.”

Photo: 5B

It’s a trend that Greg Fyffe, 5B’s global head of delivery, has seen across the mining industry with at least 12 mines in Western Australia currently utilising the 5B Maverick solar system. In 2022, 5B signed a framework agreement with Zenith Energy to deliver solar systems to the miners operations in WA.

“That the 5B Maverick can be easily removed and redeployed is attractive to miners that are accounting for closure and site rehabilitation as part of feasibility studies,” he said.

“The decommissioning of renewables is front of mind for miners – they don’t want to see megawatts of renewables being junked 10-years into what should be a 35-year-plus design life. It’s nice to see 5B aligned with the leaders in net zero mining, a competition that is playing out domestically and around the world.”

Fyffe said demand from off-grid miners has “exploded” in the last six to eight months. 5B currently has four projects in delivery with a total capacity of nearly 60 MW.

“Just this week, the last of 342, 50 kW 5B Maverick arrays left our Adelaide facility bound for the Kathleen Valley on schedule,” he said. “This is a significant milestone for 5B’s local manufacturing capability and a sign of what’s possible for the broader Australian manufacturing sector in this arduous clean energy transition.”

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