19/11/2013 - 12:31

Hybrid role for renewables

19/11/2013 - 12:31

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Western Australia could receive up to half of the $400 million in national funding set aside for renewable energy projects in regional areas as miners, especially in the Pilbara, embrace the idea of integrating renewables with existing fossil-fuelled generators.

Hybrid role for renewables
NEW POWER: The integration of renewable energy sources with fossil-fuelled generation has security of supply benefits for miners in remote parts of WA.

Western Australia could receive up to half of the $400 million in national funding set aside for renewable energy projects in regional areas as miners, especially in the Pilbara, embrace the idea of integrating renewables with existing fossil-fuelled generators.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has set up a regional program to help miners and community organisations pay for more than 150 megawatts of renewable energy projects in regional areas by 2015, primarily as hybrid add-ons.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said in Perth last week about half of the expressions of the interest the agency had received were from WA mines and regional communities, because so many of them were off the grid and their demand for electricity was predicted to grow.

“(In WA) we’re working with a number of miners on potential projects. They have submitted EOIs or are working with us on a confidential basis,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Based on the applications that we have coming in and the projects that we’re talking to, we would guess it might be as much as half.”

Speaking before a forum supported by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, Mr Frischknecht said the prime motivations for organisations with off-grid or fringe-of-grid operations were to save on costs and to gain price stability.

“It’s usually two things. Firstly, cost and secondly cost predictability. So diesel, especially shipped-in diesel has pretty volatile pricing so it’s pretty hard to plan,” he said.

Mr Frischknecht said last week’s forum aimed to address challenges such as: the reliability of renewable energy; costs; the disadvantages of being a first mover; and technical integration issues.

“Those are real issues but that’s why you need a bunch of projects to make those issues go away. You can only make those issues go away – cost, reliability, and more expensive first implementations – by actually doing a whole bunch of them,” he said.

CME policy adviser for infrastructure, Benjamin Hammer, said mining participants were especially wary of missing production from an unscheduled power outage.

He said operators tended to favour conventional fossil-fuel powered generation to reduce this risk, but there was interest in the business case for hybrid models to offset fossil fuel costs and have security of supply when diesel couldn’t be trucked in.

Several examples of how the hybrid system was working overseas were provided to participants at the forum, including a 9MW wind-diesel project at Rio Tinto’s Diavik mine in Canada, a 1MW solar PV-diesel project at Cronimet’s Thabazimbi mine in South Africa, and a 10MW concentrated solar thermal-diesel project by renewable energy technology company Abengoa at a mine in Chile.

Technical feasibility presentations were also given by Swiss power technology giant ABB, German solar energy manufacturer SMA and Verve Energy.

The deadline for EOIs is December 31 and Mr Frischknecht said construction of new projects could begin as early as the end of 2014.

ARENA, which was set up with $3 billion in funding, has previously given $13.1 million to Carnegie Wave Energy from its Emerging Renewables program. 

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