The groundbreaking ceremony of the new 15 MWp photovoltaic (PV) power plant, which will supply power to Canadian midtier mining company Iamgold’s Essakane gold mine, in Burkina Faso, was held last month at the site.
The power plant is owned by global renewable-energy independent power producer (IPP) EREN Renewable Energy and developer and IPP Africa Energy Management Platform (AEMP).
The plant, which will consist of almost 130 000 PV panels, will complement the existing 55 MW heavy fuel power plant, thereby creating the largest hybrid PV-diesel plant in the world and one of the largest solar facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. The power plant is also expected to be the first of its kind in Burkina Faso.
Construction of the plant, which started last month, is forecast to take eight months.
The Iamgold Essakane gold mine is the largest privately held business in Burkina Faso and produced 377 000 oz of gold in 2016. Owing to its remote location, the mine is currently off-grid and relies solely on costly and carbon-intensive diesel power.
Iamgold Essakane has proposed a progressive sustainability agenda and engaged in discussions with project sponsors EREN RE and AEMP to add solar capacity to its existing power system.
Further, the 15 MWp solar project will help decrease the mine’s fuel consumption by about six-million litres a year and reduce its yearly carbon-dioxide emissions by nearly 18 500 t.
The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by Burkina Faso Minister of Energy Alfa Ouma Dissa, special counsel in charge of energy and mines in the office of the President of Burkina Faso Issa Dominique Konate, French ambassador Xavier Lepeyre de Cabanes, Canadian ambassador Vincent le Pape, Iamgold Corporation CEO Steve Letwin, Iamgold Corporation chairperson Donald Charter, Iamgold Essakane SA CEO Bruno Lemelin, EREN renewable- energy business development Africa VP Christophe Fleurence and representatives of local communities.
At the ceremony, Dissa highlighted that the solar-diesel hybrid power plant is a “salutary project” for not only the mine, which will benefit from reduced energy costs over the years, but also the population, given the number of jobs generated by the project.
Lemelin added that the project “engages the Essakane mine in energy transition, sparks real local sustainable development and is an honour for Burkina Faso”.
AEMP director Richard Duffy also commented that the project was firmly on track to generate clean, renewable solar energy to supplement the current thermal supply.
Further, Essakane Solar would contribute to the creation of a strong solar PV industry and would strengthen Burkina Faso as a preferred mining destination, Fleurence added.
“This project truly highlights our expertise in delivering large-scale sustainable and competitive energy solutions that are adapted to the needs of the extractive industry. Beyond this first investment in Burkina Faso, we trust that EREN can contribute power to the country’s national grid, its industries and its off-grid rural communities”.
Positive impacts of the project include the creation of permanent jobs on site for the operation and maintenance of the PV plant, and the investment of a portion of the project’s revenues in local development initiatives to enhance its impact.