Suntrace GmbH, BayWa r.e. and B2Gold Corp. have commissioned the world’s largest off-grid solar-battery hybrid system for the mining industry, at the Fekola gold mine in Mali, West Africa. The solar-battery hybrid plant has been integrated with the existing power plant operation, and the solar plant is on course to be 100 per cent complete by the end of June.
B2Gold approved the hybrid project for implementation in July 2019, following the completion of preliminary studies by Suntrace and BayWa r.e..
The project combines solar energy with conventional energy generation and battery storage, an effective way to provide reliable power supply day and night in off-grid areas. During the day, the new 30-megawatt solar plant allows three out of six heavy fuel oil generators to be shut down; the energy production of the residual three generators could also be significantly reduced.
The 15.4-megawatt-hour battery storage compensates energy generation fluctuations and assures a reliable operation, which allows up to 75 per cent of the electricity demand of the gold mine to be covered by renewable energy during the day.
Senior Vice President at B2Gold, Dennis Stansbury, said the implementation of a solar-battery hybrid system was an obvious choice to help achieve more sustainable production at Fekola, not only for its environmental credentials, but also its economic viability.
“This is a landmark project which we expect to pave the way for more sustainable power generation within the mining industry in West Africa,” he said.
The integration of the solar power plant with the battery system will ensure safe and reliable power, saving 13.1 million litres of heavy fuel oil a year.
The close collaboration of all three parties as one team was vital to implementing the complex project, helping to realise the huge potential of solar battery hybrid systems.
COO at Suntrace, Martin Schlecht, said yhanks to excellent teamwork with B2Gold and BayWa r.e., yhey were able to manage the completion despite the global challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic imposed.
“We are proud to jointly deliver a functioning project, well-integrated with the mining operations, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions from power generation for the Fekola mine by roughly 20 per cent.”
The PV-battery system is estimated to help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 39,000 tonnes per year.
Project Manager at BayWa r.e.,Thorsten Althaus, added that integrating such a large amount of solar into a small, isolated grid safely and reliably was a major technical challenge and required the use of battery storage as well as a tailor-made control system.
“This was conceptualised in the early stages of the project and we ensured that our vision was implemented accordingly by the suppliers. It is extremely rewarding to see how well this solution performs in reality and shows that the technology works and is just waiting to be applied on further projects,” Mr Althaus said.
The Fekola Mine is located in southwest Mali, on the border between Mali and Senegal, approximately 500 kilometres west of the capital city, Bamako.
B2Gold acquired the world-class Fekola Gold Project through a merger with Papillon Resources Limited in October 2014.