African-focused gold producer, Pan African Resources PLC, has commissioned a 10 MW solar PV plant at its Evander Gold Mines. The facility is the first solar PV plant of this capacity to be commissioned by a mining company in South Africa.
The solar energy power plant will supply electricity to the Group’s Elikhulu surface retreatment operations. The gold producer says the solar PV plant will provide an estimated 30% of Elikhulu’s power requirement, and achieve electricity cost savings estimated at R100,000/day ~ R3m/month. At current electricity tariffs, payback is anticipated in under 5 years.
“In addition to CO2 emission reductions, the PV plant has the added benefits of providing a secure and stable power supply, while at the same time ensuring we manage future cost pressures resulting from above-inflation electricity tariffs,” said Cobus Loots, CEO of Pan African.
“Reducing our carbon emissions is just one of the ways Pan African is ‘Mining for a Future’, and forms part of our integrated beyond compliance approach in support of our ESG principles. We will continue with energy independence and decarbonisation initiatives at all our operations, with another 20MW of solar capacity scheduled to be constructed in the next two years,” Loots continued.
Solar plant features
The renewable energy plant sits on 20,1 hectares of land and contains 26,640 solar PV modules (445W Suntech bi-facial polycrystalline modules for improved yield). The plant has 50 Sungrow string inverters (250kW each), 4 Sungrow 880V/6.6kV MV transformers.
The solar plant also has 222 STi Norland single axis sun trackers to maximise yield. There is a 6.6kV MV switching station on site, with a 507m long 6.6kV overhead line connecting to the mine’s electrical network.
Pan African says it concluded the concept design and bankable feasibility study for the solar PV plant during 2019, and obtained municipal consent for construction on 17 December 2019. Engineering studies and other regulatory processes, including the water use licence and environmental approvals and DMRE consent were obtained during 2020. The NERSA generation licence was issued in August 2021.
Site-establishment and construction for the project commenced in the first quarter of 2021, on rehabilitated land owned by Evander Mines. The tender for the Evander solar PV facility was awarded to juwi Renewable Energies South Africa, a subsidiary of the German headquartered juwi Group, one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies.
During construction the services of 10 local contractor companies were utilised, which provided 202 temporary local job opportunities. The jobs and skills developed during construction will be retained for Evander Gold Mine’s underground renewable energy 12MW expansion phase.
Apart from using local contractors for cleaning and maintenance of the solar panels, the gold producer is investigating implementation of agriculture projects at the facility which are expected to create sustainable local employment opportunities and maximise land utilisation at Evander Gold Mine’s solar PV facility.
Pan African says it is finalising its roadmap to decarbonisation with an additional 8MW PV plant to be constructed at Barberton Mines in 2023, and is investigating using battery storage solutions. The gold producer is looking to have 30MW of solar capacity in operation by 2024 across its assets.