Modular solar solution helps mining operation shift to renewables


Remote power specialist Zenith Energy has completed a 16.9 MW deployment of Australian manufacturer 5B’s prefabricated Maverick solar array technology on a waste rock dump at Northern Star Resources’ Jundee gold mining operation in Western Australia.

The solar project, which comprises 342 of the modular plug-and-play Maverick units, is part of the larger 46.6 MW Jundee mine hybrid renewable energy power project, which is expected to provide about 56% of the mine site’s energy requirements.

The power plant, that also includes 24 MW of wind generation and a 12 MW / 13.4 MWh battery energy storage system, is being delivered as part of a 15-year off-grid renewable energy power purchase agreement (PPA) with Zenith.

Sydney-headquartered 5B said commissioning of the solar installation has commenced which will shortly enable integration of the new clean power generation station with the existing gas-fired power plant.

The Jundee project is the latest in a string of off-grid hybrid renewable energy projects being rolled out across Western Australian mining operations.

Northern Star has also turned to renewables at its Carosue Dam and Porphyry mine sites while Liontown Resources earlier this month powered up a 95 MW power plant at its Kathleen Valley project also in Western Australia’s goldfields region. AngloGold Ashanti’s Tropicana mining operation and Bellevue Gold’s namesake project have also signed PPAs for off-grid hybrid renewable energy projects.

A regular feature among these projects is 5B’s Maverick system, a ground-mounted solar array of up to 90 PV panels mounted on specially designed frames that can be unfolded and installed with minimal human labour. The modules are oriented in a concertina shape at a 10-degree tilt and are electrically configured for rapid installation.

Gerard Major, group manager of capital projects at Northern Star, said the system was ideally suited for the Jundee project with the technology allowing for idle land to be repurposed for productive solar power generation.

“The 5B units’ low-ground penetration technology, small footprint and high power density design enabled us to make use of our existing waste rock dump, which opens up a traditionally underutilised land resource for us to install clean renewable power stations on,” he said.

The engineering behind the Maverick has also secured 5B its largest project yet, with the company awarded a 69 MW contract by a subsidiary of United States-headquartered energy giant AES Corporation.

The project, which also includes a 100 MW/ 400 MWh battery energy storage system, is being developed in a hurricane-prone region in Puerto Rico.

5B CEO David Griffin

Image: 5B

5B Chief Executive Officer David Griffin said Maverick arrays, that are mounted on composite steel-concrete beams, are engineered to withstand extreme winds.

“This deal clearly demonstrates the ability of the 5B team and our 5B Maverick prefabricated solar array technology to meet the scale, performance, and cost requirements of our utility scale customers,” he said.

Griffin said the Puerto Rico project is part of a growing sales pipeline that has surged on the back of falling module prices, which have dipped dramatically since January.

“The strength of our pipeline continues to increase particularly as module prices fall,” he said. “We’re seeing more instances where 5B Maverick is beating single access tracker on a levelised cost of energy basis where labour and land are constrained, and the cost of bring people, equipment, materials and infrastructure to site for projects is a challenge.”

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