|South Africa’s power crisis driving mines to renewable energy
An interesting trend has begun to take hold within the South African mining industry: they’re discovering renewable energy. One of the major reasons for this shift is the unreliable nature of Eskom. The availability of a reliable electricity supply is vital to ensuring uninterrupted production in the mining industry. Traditionally, when confronted with load shedding, mining companies were forced to face the undesirable choice of either reducing operations or turning to costly diesel generators.
As a result, alternative energy sources, such as solar power or wind power, are deemed to be viable options for mining companies to invest in, as they ensure continuous production. Prices of green energy solutions have dropped dramatically in recent years, further strengthening the case for renewable energy South Africa to be implemented throughout the mining sector.
Renewable Energy used to save Costs
Energy costs within mining can constitute to anywhere between 15% and 40% of the operating budget. Implementing renewable energy as an alternative energy source not only ensures continuous energy supply, but can also reduce energy costs.
The renewable energy team at Hatch, a Canadian engineering company, indicated that integrating hybrid renewable energy solutions to existing diesel systems can cut energy costs by 10-20%.
This practice has already taken off within South African mining, with renewable energy independent power producer developer, CRONIMET Mining Power Solutions, operating a photovoltaic/diesel hybrid system for a chromium mine in Limpopo. This system has replaced 30% of the mine’s annual diesel demand.
As a result of the ever-increasing fuel price, running diesel generators to power mining operations in remote regions, or during rolling blackouts, can greatly increase energy costs. Besides the amount spent on fuel, transportation of that fuel can also contribute towards the mine’s heightened expenses.
Replacing or supplementing costly generators with green energy is attractive as it is estimated that solar and wind energy is roughly 70% cheaper than electricity from diesel, even though the precise amount of diesel fuel consumed by mines is not often disclosed.
Mining as an Untapped Market
Renewable energy technologies are well suited for mining projects in remote regions that have little to no access to established electrical grids. This is thanks to the fact that these locations already have the necessary land required for small solar and wind turbine farms.
While many mines discard this option due to the large up-front expenditures attached, many green energy developers are willing to invest through rental or power purchase agreements (PPA), allowing mines to pay for power over time.
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