Remote WA nickel mine to add 7MW solar plant, slash diesel use


ASX-listed miner Independence Group is going (partially) solar at its Nova nickel operation in Western Australia, through a PV installation and power purchase agreement with remote power generation specialist Zenith Energy.
The project – which is being described by both parties as the the first fully integrated commercial hybrid diesel/solar PV facility in Australia – was announced by Zenith on Tuesday.
In an amendment to the existing PPA between the two companies, Zenith said it would build own and operate a 7MW solar PV facility at the Nova mine, taking the total capacity of the hybrid power station to around 26MW, with solar providing about half of total generation.
“Importantly, this is the first solar hybrid plant on an Australian mine to be primarily funded on a commercial basis,” Zenith said in a note on its website.
“In achieving this, Zenith have paved the way for the wider use of solar hybrid power generation in the mining sector, offering clients major financial and environmental benefits.”
Zenith, which also owns and operates the mine’s existing Nova Diesel Power Station, said the PV addition would include state-of-the-art modules, single axis tracking, inverters, communications and control system technology.
The resulting energy mix, it said, would provide the Nova Operation with “highly efficient, cost effective and environmentally responsible power generation into the future” – not least by reducing its fossil fuel consumption by more than 3,000,000 litres a year.
“At IGO we believe in the green energy future and are committed to renewable energy sources as we strive to reduce our carbon footprint,” the miner’s managing director Peter Bradford said in comments on Tuesday.
‘The development of this innovative hybrid energy solution will also improve our cost structure with targeted renewable power insertion of up to 50 per cent of demand via the Solar PV facility,” he said.
For Zenith’s part, this sort of energy supply deal is shaping up to be its bread and butter in the near future, as industry embraces the shift to renewable energy and more sustainable mining practices.
As we reported in mid-2016, one of the earliest signs of this transformation was the installation of 7MW of solar and 6MWh of battery storage at Sandfire Resources’ DeGrussa copper and gold mine in remote WA, to complement its existing 19MW diesel-fired power station.
That project – developed by Neoen and Juwi Renewable Energy with backing from both ARENA and the CEFC – aimed to supply the majority of DeGrussa’s daytime electricity requirements with solar and storage, and offset about 5 million litres of diesel fuel a year.
Since then, there has been plenty more renewable energy activity in the mining sector, including the industry-leading example of Korean zinc refiner, Sun Metals, which is building a 116MW solar farm south of Townsville, in Queensland, that will provide around one-third of its electricity needs, while also underpinning expansion of its north Queensland refinery business.
And in June last year, the Australian arm of the world’s largest industrial garnet producer, GMA Garnet, signed a long-term PPA with WA-based Advanced Energy Resources for the output of a 3MW wind and solar farm with battery storage, to be built south of Kalbarri, Western Australia.
Zenith Energy’s managing director, Hamish Moffat said the PPA amendment with IGO this week demonstrated the company’s ability to provide “dynamic, innovative solutions” for cost-cost-effective energy supply – and to do so without subsidies or government support.
“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,” Moffat said.
The solar addition to the Nova mine, located on the Fraser Range 360km southeast of Kalgoorlie, is expected to be up and running by the first quarter of 2020, with an initial supply period of  six years and an option for IGO to extend for a further two years.

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