Solar hybrid power plant offers huge lifetime savings for mining sites

February 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News


A solar/conventional power combined hybrid power plant is reckoned to be able to save a mining operations millions of dollars over mine life and reduce its carbon footprint too

31 Jan 2014


First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR), which describes itself as a leading global solar energy solutions provider, will spotlight the role that solar power can play in delivering uninterrupted electricity to the mining industry, at the Investing in African Mining Indaba convention in Cape Town, South Africa.

According to First Solar, deploying sophisticated photovoltaic (PV) hybrid solutions that supplement existing power sources – such as the electricity grid or diesel generators – can help mining companies address their daytime electricity supply challenges, while minimising costs and lowering their environmental impact.

For instance, a 10 megawatt (MW)AC First Solar FuelSmart™ solar-diesel hybrid plant installed at an existing 15.3 MW site – with 24-hour base load generation – in South Africa is estimated to save over 84 million litres of fuel over a 25-year period. Overall, the PV-hybrid solution could reduce the total energy generation cost by as much as USD 95.2 million over the project lifetime, when compared to operating a diesel-only generation site (see below for assumptions). In addition to these projected savings, the hybrid system could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 258,300 tonnes.


The savings are calculated based on the following assumptions:

  • Generator efficiency and fuel cost:
  • Fuel consumption per megawatt hour (MWh): 270 liters
  • Power generated per litre: 3.70KWh/L
  • Fuel price per litre: $1.16
  • Fuel cost per MWh: $314
  • Fuel price escalation: 1.5 % per annum
  • Load: 15.3 MW per hour, 24 hour steady base load; 132,000 MWh per annum
  • Carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per liter of diesel burned: 3.058 kilograms
  • Solar irradiation: 2,300 kWh/m²/year  
  • Energy yield: 1,955 kWh/kWp/year


  • Combined system capacity: 25.3 MWac
  • Lifetime share of electricity supplied by solar: 9.47 %
  • Project lifetime: 25 years
  • Maximum PV penetration: 70 %

“The mining industry in South Africa and around the region is working to address electricity supply challenges that have a direct impact on operations. Whether mines are grid-connected or relying on diesel generators, solar energy, with its cost competitiveness and reliability, represents a meaningful value proposition,” said John Eccles, Director of Fuel Replacement Solutions at First Solar. “It is important for the mining industry to think of solar as a fuel and not just as additional generation capacity. The fact is that solar is more reliable and affordable than ever before and when you consider the environmental benefits, there’s no reason that it should not be widely adopted.”

First Solar’s FuelSmart™ hybrid solutions combine a PV power plant with traditional electricity sources to create a reliable and affordable source of electricity. The two sources would complement each other using sophisticated control systems that ensure stable electricity generation. In addition to minimizing operations and maintenance costs, hybrid systems can also reduce fuel supply logistical costs and risks. From an environmental perspective, solar energy can help reduce emissions, noise pollution and a mine’s overall carbon footprint.

“Mining forms a cornerstone in South Africa’s economy and, in turn, reliable electricity is the lifeblood of the resource extraction industry. As mining companies around the region work to achieve energy security, solar power presents a scalable, affordable and easily deployable solution,” said Johannes Cilliers, First Solar’s Managing Director for sub-Saharan Africa.

As a vertically integrated renewable energy company, First Solar has been leading the charge to integrate reliable and affordable solar electricity into the energy mix on a global scale. With a pipeline of over 3,000 MW or 3 Gigawatts (GW) of contracted solar power plants and over 8,000 MW installed worldwide, its modules’ collective capacity is approximately the same as eight nuclear power plants. A global market leader, First Solar’s commercial footprint spans six continents, including Africa, with manufacturing facilities in the US and Malaysia.


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