Miners Embrace Solar Technology
A surprising new customer has entered the solar renewable energy market: mines. Around the world, various mining companies are turning to wind and solar energy technology to provide power to their operations.
A 15-megawatt solar facility powers about 5% of the operations at Freeport-McMorRan’s Bagdad copper and molybdenum open pit mine per an agreement with Arizona Public Service. It’s not just Arizona. Chile is seeing the benefits of solar energy as well. Mining is a huge part of Chilean economy, and the use of sustainable energy is growing in popularity. Purchase agreements with local utilities are allowing mining operations to draw a percentage of their power from solar energy installations. About 20% of miners’ production costs are spent on energy, and the Chilean mining industry is the largest consumer of energy in the country. Antofogasta Minerals’ Los Pelambres copper mine draws power from a 115-megawatt wind farm, and a 100-megawatt solar energy installation powers CAP Group’s iron ore mines in the Atacama Desert.
Of course, miners aren’t just using wind and solar power for their own purposes. Companies are installing wind and solar energy facilities on land belonging to mining corporations that is no longer in use. In 2008 and 2009, PacifiCorp built a 237-megawatt wind field in Wyoming on a depleted surface coal mine.
In 2011, an Arizona project installed a 5-megawatt solar cell on leased land next to the pit of Freeport-McMorRan’s Ajo Copper Mine. While the project may seem small, it had bigger implications for the industry by proving that it is possible to build on mine land without disturbing dangerous pollutants that might be trapped underground.
While solar renewable energy is taking baby steps in the mining industry, it is important to remember that advancements in residential solar technology are constantly being made. As the technology for residential solar power improves, so will industrial solar technology, and we will begin to see widespread use of solar renewable energy in different industries across the globe. Find out more here.