Solar-wind-energy storage hybrid to power Rio Tinto mine

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The QMM ilmenite mine is located near Fort Dauphin in the south of Madagascar. Image: Rio Tinto.

A solar-wind-energy storage hybrid project is to power a Madagascan mine after Rio Tinto signed a power purchase agreement with independent power producer CrossBoundary Energy.

The facility will combine 8MW of solar, 12MW of onshore wind and a battery energy storage system with a rated power output of up to 8.25MW to provide renewable power to Rio Tinto’s QMM ilmenite mine in Fort Dauphin.

Construction on the solar element of the project is expected to start later this year with commercial operations slated for early 2022. The wind power facility will then start construction in early 2022 before becoming operational by the end of the year.

CrossBoundary will build, own and operate the power project.

The facility is to supply all of the QMM mine’s power during peak generation times, providing up to 60% of its annual electricity demand. As a result of the project QMM will also replace a majority of power it currently supplies to Fort Dauphin with renewables.

CrossBoundary co-founder and managing partner Matt Tilleard noted that emissions from electricity use in mining operations is estimated to account for up to 1% of all carbon emissions globally, highlighting the opportunity to decarbonise mining through hybrid renewable projects.

A host of mining companies have turned to renewables, and off-grid solar and storage in particular to help trim emissions. Last week PV Tech Premium profiled the recent rise in off-grid solar projects being used to turn mines away from fossil fuel-powered gensets.

“We are focused on delivering cleaner power to businesses and were therefore able to offer Rio Tinto a flexible, fast, all-equity funding approach, combined with our reliable track record as one of Africa’s largest distributed renewable utilities,” he said.

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