MINE POWER

A Newsletter for the Mining Industry.

SUSTAINABLE POWER SOLUTIONS FOR MINING APPLICATIONS


 


 

 

 

ICYMI…HOW CORONAVIRUS MAKES THE CASE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY

At first glance, it’s a stretch. How are a novel virus and renewable energy even related? The answer has to do with economics. In a recent article for Forbes, contributor David Vetter interviews Dr. Charles Donovan, Executive Director of the Centre for Climate Finance and Investment at London’s Imperial College Business School. For Donovan, it comes down to volatility.

Anyone who pays a fluctuating price for diesel understands there is already significant volatility built into any business model that relies on fossil fuels. This is only made worse when “unforeseeable events like coronavirus arise at the worst time.” Such “black swan” events are difficult to predict and impossible for individual businesses to control, so any steps an enterprise can take to reduce volatility in other areas can only make its business more resilient. Coupling an event like coronavirus with an untimely price war between major oil suppliers only makes the logic more apparent. Says Donovan, “[I]ncreased volatility in the oil markets … [stands] in stark contrast to what may become the great virtue of renewable energy, which has nothing to do with its greenness, but more about the stability of cash flows from underlying assets …The relative stability of renewable energy that’s fully contracted, that already has power purchase agreements ... should make it immune from deterioration.”

So, “it’s not that by having more wind turbines and solar panels we could avoid coronavirus,” Donovan said. “But we [the major economies] have been like the frog in a pan of water that’s slowly warming up: the fire has just been turned up several notches, and the only thing we can do now is jump out of the pan. This is about building an energy infrastructure that creates resilience.” 2019.

 

 

 

WHAT IS CONCENTRATED SOLAR POWER (CSP)?

Concentrated Solar Power, or CSP, is a proven technology for harnessing solar energy to produce power that has significant advantages for mining applications. Unlike photovoltaic panels, or PV, CSP systems store the sun’s energy as heat instead of electricity, at a fraction of the cost of batteries. In a typical CSP system, mirrors in various configurations capture and concentrate sunlight to heat a fluid, typically molten salts, to extremely high temperature. Along with water, heat captured in this way can be used to produce steam, which drives turbines to produce electricity. Surplus heat can be stored in insulated tanks, for later use.

Unlike PV, CSP offers the promise of continuous operation. However, up to now, CSP systems have been complex and economical only at very large scale. 247Solar Plants™ break through barriers of complexity and cost to bring the advantages of CSP to smaller-scale, off-grid applications. They are particularly well suited to remote mines.

HOW 247SOLAR PLANTS WORK

A proprietary 247Solar Receiver™ sits atop a tower ~35m (125 feet) in height. Innovative, ground-mounted heliostats (solar mirrors) track the sun and shine up to 1500 suns of reflected light up to the receiver. Air passing through the receiver is super-heated to about 970 ℃ (~1800 °F), 50% hotter than conventional CSP. Some of this heat is transferred to compressed air from an off-the-shelf microturbine. The super-heated compressed air is then used to drive the turbine, which spins a generator to produce electricity.

Hot air not used to power the turbine is routed to a silo-like container of inexpensive dry storage materials, typically ceramic pellets, which efficiently retain the heat for later use. To produce power when the sun is not shining, the system is simply run in reverse. Air is blown through the storage medium and super-heated to drive the turbine. If storage is depleted, the system’s turbine can also burn natural gas, biofuels or even diesel, eliminating the need for separate, expensive backup generators.

Individual 247Solar Plants are modules of 400kW capacity that occupy roughly 4 acres of land. Yet, 247Solar technology is scalable to meet any demand. Multiple Plants can be combined into installations producing 10s or 100s of megawatts as required to provide exceptionally reliable power 24/7/365. Unlike conventional CSP, 247Solar Plants use only air - no water/steam, salts, or oils. They are constructed with pre-engineered, factory-built components with few moving parts, for low maintenance and rapid, low-cost deployment.

SPOTLIGHT ON AUSTRALIA: MINERS MAKE AGGRESSIVE COMMITMENTS TO RENEWABLES

Unlike PV, CSP offers the promise of continuous operation. However, up to now, CSP systems have been complex and economical only at very large scale. 247Solar Plants™ break through barriers of complexity and cost to bring the advantages of CSP to smaller-scale, off-grid applications. They are particularly well suited to remote mines.

Despite slowing investment in renewables during the first half of 2019, Australian mining concerns are setting aggressive targets for moving away from fossil fuels as their primary energy source, according to an article in the March issue of Energy and Mines. For example:

  • BHP set the ambitious goal of achieving net-zero operational greenhouse gas emissions towards the end of the century, along with launching a US$400mn climate investment program;
  • Rio Tinto said it was looking at a combination of wind, solar and storage to power the US$1bn expansion of the Tom Price mine;
  • Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) signed a deal to build a 60 MW solar plant at the Chichester Hub iron ore operations;
  • Roy Hill — a latecomer to the energy transition — started recruiting for an alternative energy advisor.
The author quotes Simon Currie, Principal at consultancy Energy Estate as saying, “The last year has seen a fundamental shift in the approach of the mining sector to the opportunity represented by switching to renewable energy … Small remote mine sites … have started to move from the traditional fossil fuel options to solar/storage hybrids, and the majors … have announced large-scale programs on both sides of Australia.” Read more.

 

 

 

MOODY’S: MINING ‘MODERATELY EXPOSED’ TO EFFECTS OF CORONAVIRUS

A report from Moody’s, excerpted on Mining.com, projects that the mining and metals sector will be moderately impacted by declining commodity prices (with the possible exception of gold), as a result of the global spread of the novel coronavirus. The adjacent chart shows expected levels of exposure for major sectors around the world based on Moody’s research.