Mining companies were not traditionally considered a good fit for renewable energy. A closer look shows that this is not true anymore. Numerous renewable energy systems already power mines today, and experts from both worlds – mining and renewables – agree that a boom in this field is ahead.
Mining companies have been facing price pressure for the last few years. Many high-yield mining locations are already exhausted, the material that is extracted today is more difficult to access and it also requires more energy in reduction and purification processes afterwards. The amount of energy per unit is increasing, and so are electricity and diesel prices, whereas the prices for renewable energy, wind and solar, have been falling considerably during the last few years. This is why mining companies are paying more and more attention to renewable energy topics. There is a big demand for information on both sides.
“The objective of THEnergy is to accelerate the application of renewable energy in the mining sector by providing missing information,” points out Dr. Thomas Hillig, founder of THEnergy. One of the key elements of the platform “Renewables & Mining” (www.th-energy.net/mining) is a plant database for renewable energy systems near mines. It contains wind, PV, CPV, CSP and solar thermal plants. “Successful examples in the same industry are very often the catalyst that lays the basis for a breakthrough. They eliminate existing doubts to a large extent,” explains Hillig. By using the platform mining companies also get to know which renewable energy players are already experienced in this field. For renewable energy companies the platform is a good source to discover who the progressive first movers are in the mining industry.
The platform also collects background information such as technical overviews and business models. On a monthly basis, reports and white papers will be published. Finally, a blog allows for discussions among experts and players that are new to the field.
The best business case can be observed for hybrid power plants. In mining, these are solar or wind power systems that are combined with or integrated into existing diesel power plants. Wind and solar energy are often more than 70 percent less expensive than electricity from diesel, especially in remote areas where transportation makes up a large share of the total diesel cost.