Solar Powering the Pilbara

Renewable Energy, Mining & Rio Tinto

Energy Prices, Off Grid Solar, Technology Comments Off on Renewable Energy, Mining & Rio Tinto

As part of a forthcoming national store roll-out, Nu Energy spent time way out west last week and stumbled upon some great examples of off-grid solar. While Rio Tinto’s Weipa Bauxite Mine future operations will soon be powered by a proposed 6.7MW installation, in reality they’ve been ‘in the game’ for many years with sustainable and renewable energy initiatives where economically feasible. These off-grid systems dot the landscape throughout the Pilbara in Dampier/Karratha, Pannawonica, Paraburdoo, Tom Price and Wickham, bringing electricity and essential services to these remote communities.

For full disclosure I am not a Rio Tinto shareholder or have/ever had any relationship with the company. But from an outsider looking in… they seem to understand and accept the need to be conscious of the impacts of climate change. Rio Tinto realises that securing energy and cost-efficient electricity supply is critically important to the efficient running of operations. Reducing the energy intensity of their operations and minimising their energy use doesn’t just reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is simply good business.

The Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories has its own purpose built 9.2MW wind farm that powers ~10% of its operations. Brought on-line in September 2012, Diavik became the operator of the world’s largest wind-diesel hybrid power facility.

The Lochaber Aluminium Smelter in the Scottish Highlands land is powered by an installed capacity of 90MW’s of hydro power and by no means is this an isolated case. Globally 84% of the power the company uses for primary aluminium production comes from hydro including power facilities it operates in British Columbia, Quebec, Gladstone, and Kinlochleven/Lochaber as previously referred to.

Mining companies traditionally get a bad rap for their environmental impact, but in reality their corporate and social practices often exceed industries who not only use miner’s ‘outputs’ but are also perceived to be more responsible corporate outfits. Sure mining is an energy-intensive industry and often relies heavily on fossil fuels, however in order to maximise shareholder returns, mining site energy requirements are increasingly met from renewable power sources. In doing so, mining companies have made their site operations more resilient against uncertain carbon and energy market risks and minimised their impact on the planet. I wonder which industry will be next to adopt this trend and use renewable energy to their strategic benefit?



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On February 19, 2015
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