Plagued by escalating costs and insufficient supply of electricity, Australia’s mining industry is finally turning towards alternative power that is clean, sustainable, and renewable. Their prime candidate? Solar power.
In its traditional form, solar power converts sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic (PV) cells placed on vast expanses of land – which occupies potentially habitable areas. Then there are other drawbacks in the form of maintenance costs, operating temperature and efficiency.
Fortunately, there exist variations of solar power that overcomes the limitations of these land-based systems. One such variation is floating solar power and its adoption means greater energy output, lowered costs, and a reduction in carbon footprint.
For Australian mining companies and the rest of the world, these benefits are easily found in FloatPac’s Australian-designed floatovoltaic system.
Greater energy output
Mine operators don’t get the luxury of convenience when choosing a location to set up their operations – often they find themselves in highly remote locations that are not connected to Australia’s power grid.
That translates to insufficient and unreliable energy supply which necessitates the need for supplementary sources of power which floating solar power is an ideal candidate for. Placing solar panels on bodies of water such as dams, basins, and even the sea, allows for the natural cooling effect of the water to reduce the operating temperature of the cells.
Coupled with a reduction in dust that settles on the solar panels, floating solar power can produce higher energy outputs between 11% to 21%. This greater energy output far outweighs any concerns that its horizontal placement will reduce efficiency by 10% to 12% making it an obvious go-to supplementary power supply for Australia’s power-hungry mining industry.
Cost-efficient source of energy
With 24-hour operations and heavy machinery, the mining industry is one that continues to see a rise in energy consumption. A 2017 Australian Energy Update report by the Department of the Environment and Energy showed that energy consumption for the mining industry has seen a 14% rise in 2015 – 2016.
To cope with this demand, Australia’s mining industry still largely depend on fossil fuels with 41% of its energy being derived from diesel according to the Renewable Energy In The Australian Mining Sector White Paper.
But volatility in prices of fossil fuels means that energy-intensive mining sites spend around 20% of their total input costs for energy alone. For these mines, supplementing their supply of energy with floating solar power is a cost-efficient source of reliable and clean electricity.
A research into off-grid solar utilisation in mining commissioned by Aurecon revealed that a 1.2 megawatt (MW) solar installation can substantially support about 5% of electricity demand for a 5 MW mine. This effectively reduces the need for diesel use amounting 600,000 litres per annum or approximately $6 million in diesel costs over a period of ten years.
The benefits of reduced cost for power extends even to mines that are connected to Australia’s power grid, freeing operations from spot prices as high as $14,000 per megawatt-hour.
Reducing the mining industry’s carbon footprint
Finally, there’s the impact of the Australian mining industry on the environment to consider. At a consumption rate of roughly 500 petajoules per year (10% of Australia’s total energy use), it’s no surprise that Australia’s mines leave a large carbon footprint.
This doesn’t bode well for mining companies that furnish the triple bottom line reporting which measures the degree of social responsibility, economic values, and the business’ impact on the environment under the Global Reporting Initiative.
By adopting floating solar power, the mining sector can reduce carbon dioxide emissions which currently stands at approximately 65,000 gigatonnes and reduce airborne particulate pollution from dust generation and fossil fuel use.
There’s also the benefit of water reclamation with estimates by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) that up to 20,000 litres of water per MW can be reclaimed each routine cleaning session. On a 10 MW installation (approximately 25,000 panels), that’s a saving of up to 10.4 million litres of water on a weekly cleaning schedule.
For FloatPac, these environmental benefits are further amplified by a floatovoltaic system that provides 100% recyclable, UV-stabilised, and rot and mold-resistant flotation pods. It’s a unique design, packing density in all forms from air and land to sea transport uses superior materials, reducing cost and carbon footprint. A true testament to their long-standing experience in sustainable and environmentally-friendly products and a clear example of how FloatPac is leading the charge in clean, renewable, and sustainable energy.
FloatPac Solar’s Australian designed floatovoltaic system focuses on decreasing the impact on the environment by containing algae bloom, enhancing water security, reducing carbon emissions, all while using 100% recyclable cells and increasing energy generation efficiency.
Gavin Hodgins, FloatPac CEO