Solar and battery storage to power Western Australia rare earths mine

Image: Northern Minerals

A rare earths mining operation in the east Kimberly region of Western Australia has revealed plans to install a renewable energy and battery storage system, through a deal with Soluna Australia.

Soluna – a 50-50 partnership between Lithium Australia and China-based DLG Energy – said this week it had executed a letter of intent with ASX-listed miner Northern Minerals, for a 100kW solar and 200kWh storage system at its Brown’s Range project (cost to be determined).

The mining project, which covers an area of around 3595km2 (spanning both W.A. and the Northern Territory), is centred on the Brown’s Range Dome, a major geological feature considered highly prospective for heavy rare earths, including dysprosium – a key ingredient for a range of emerging technologies.

Like other such mining operations, it is also well and truly off-grid, and has so far used costly and polluting diesel energy generation to power its accommodation camp and processing plant.

The deal with Soluna will see the installation of a solar power generator and lithium-ion battery storage system, alongside a power purchase agreement between Soluna and Northern Minerals that will remove the any up-front capital cost for NTU.

Soluna said the project would initially focus on shifting the Brown’s Range accommodation camp to a renewables supply, and then on reducing the use of fossil fuels across the entire operation.

It expects to install the lithium-ion battery system at Brown’s Range sometime during or after the month of September, when its next shipment of modular, rack-mounted energy storage system(ESS) products was due to arrive in Australia.

The company says it uses lithium ferro phosphate batteries in its microgrid systes, given the chemistry’s high safety standard, its ability to perform well in hot environments, as well as its longevity and low maintenance requirements in harsh mining environments.

Soluna says its plan, more broadly, is to offer no-cost installation of its ESS products in combination with a power-purchase agreement, to provide a low-capital entry point for both domestic and industrial applications. It is anticipated that

Sales of the systems are expected to start in June 2020, supported by further product imports in September.

“Lithium Australia is aware of the growing demand for off-grid and fringe-of-grid hybrid energy systems,” said the company’s managing director, Adrian Griffin.

“Renewable energy won’t work without reliable storage and Soluna offers economical and sustainable solutions.

“We look forward to Brown’s Range becoming a successful renewable-energy case study. Current levels of interest are a good indicator that Soluna will grow significantly as Australia heads to a greener future.”

RenewEconomy and its sister sites One Step Off The Grid and The Driven will continue to publish throughout the Covid-19 crisis, posting good news about technology and project development, and holding government, regulators and business to account. But as the conference market evaporates, and some advertisers pull in their budgets, readers can help by making a voluntary donation here to help ensure we can continue to offer the service free of charge and to as wide an audience as possible. Thank you for your support.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.