Renewable energy company, Total Eren, has launched the world’s largest solar-thermal hybrid plant in Burkina Faso.
Total Eren and Africa-focused independent power producer, AEMP, inaugurated Essakane Solar over the weekend, adding 15 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity to an existing 57-MW heavy fuel oil power plant at Buekina Faso’s IAMGOLD’s Essakane mine.
The solar- thermal plant is the first of what Total Eren hopes will be many of the projects supplying the African mining industry’s growing need for power.
According to Christophe Fleurence, Total Eren’s vice-president for business development in Africa, plan is to replicate the plant with other mining projects.
“It’s gathering pace in terms of interest in all the discussions we’ve had with our contacts in the mining industry,” Fleurence said, declining to give details of potential future deals.
Mining companies operating in remote areas have long relied on thermal power plants, making their operations carbon-intensive and their costs vulnerable to fluctuations in world oil prices.
As the price of photovoltaic panels has dropped in recent years, several mining operations have added solar capacity to help cut power costs. However, most of those projects have been relatively small.
The Essakane plant, which has nearly 130,000 solar panels, is expected to decrease the mine’s fuel consumption by some 6 million liters per year and reduce CO2 emissions by around 18,500 tonnes per year.
The gold mine will buy the entirety of the plant’s production via a 15-year power purchasing agreement signed with a special-purpose company in which Total Eren owns a 90 percent stake. AEMP, Total Eren’s strategic partner for its industrial and mining business in Africa, holds the remaining 10 percent.
“We do see this as likely to be adopted more and more going forward,” AEMP co-founder, Richard Duffy, said. “We talk to a number of mining companies. We have various projects in the pipeline – some of them not dissimilar to Essakane.”