The local mining sector is becoming more open to implementing new technologies in terms of energy solutions, as they can make mining operations more efficient, productive and cost effective, states microgrid and energy solutions provider Hitachi ABB Power Grids MD Malvin Naicker.
Hitachi ABB Power Grids was formed as a new global technological business last month, following the completion of a joint venture (JV) between digital solutions provider Hitachi and energy and automation technologies provider ABB.
Naicker, in emphasising the importance of the mining sector to the local economy, states that it is “vitally important” to have infrastructure and appropriate energy solutions to support the mining sector. Hitachi ABB Power Grids can provide microgrid and energy storage solutions to meet this need, he adds.
He explains that solutions such as microgrids allow for using a variety of alternative energy sources, combining them in one system that enables end-users, including mines, to tap into the different power sources when needed.
These solutions would often involve using traditional fossil-fuel-related energy sources, such as diesel, to provide the minimum amount of energy required, while incorporating renewable sources, such as solar and wind, to meet the overall energy load.
As an example, mines located in windier areas would be able to use wind energy more often and would have the microgrid system designed in a manner that is tailored to this purpose.
Moreover, through Hitachi ABB Power Grids mines can combine these capabilities with battery energy storage solutions, which Naicker explains will enable mines to store energy and use it when needed.
“This enables us to navigate the peaks of power consumption, especially when dealing with higher loads. When you have significant increases in required power, having power stored in reserve in a battery enables you to mitigate that high-use of energy.”
Naicker says Hitachi ABB Power Grids’ turnkey approach enables it to assist mines in implementing these solutions through all the stages of implementation – from the initial consultancy phase to installation and final commissioning of the microgrids and storage solutions.
The company can also provide software solutions, including enterprise asset management, asset performance management and workforce management, to support the energy solutions.
Alternative energy solutions have become particularly important to the local mining sector amid the ongoing challenges of energy supply.
Naicker stresses that such challenges, such as load-shedding, have had a significant and detrimental impact on local industries, including mining.
Electricity supply challenges have affected mining operations that are directly connected to the national energy grid, as they are unable to operate during load-shedding.
Microgrid and energy storage solutions help to mitigate these challenges, enabling mines which use alternative energy sources to continue operations during load-shedding.
“Depending on the capacity of the solution, this enables mines to continue operating for a predetermined time. In some cases, it also enables them to shut down unnecessary equipment and sections of an operation or processing plant while allowing for more critical applications to continue operating.”
Naicker points out an “evident global trend” of mines starting to move away from fossil-fuel-based energy sources.
“A trend we are seeing today is a hybrid model, which enables mines to use traditional forms of power generation, but augment them with renewable-energy sources.”
Naicker states that Hitachi ABB Power Grids is looking to increase its interaction with stakeholders in the local mining industry to market these solutions.
While ABB has had more experience in providing solutions for the mining sector, Naicker emphasises that Hitachi’s ability to provide and incorporate mobility and information technology solutions will assist the JV’s goal of becoming a partner of choice in the energy space.
“We need to be an enabler of stronger, smarter and more resilient power grids, but we also want to be the responsible partner, and deploy solutions that ensure a greener, more sustainable and more environment-friendly national grid,” he concludes.