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Using solar energy as a source of energy in the North

2022-07-18
By Mohamed Zaki

Despite climatic changes, solar energy is the most cost-effective power source for mine operations in the north. With the assistance of Solvest, the biggest solar panel installation company for northern communities, Cambridge Energy Partners (CEP) managed to create a prefabricated solar array, “Nomad”, that is easy to install and move around. This pilot project was executed near Whitehorse, Yukon and proved to help cut power costs throughout the North for miners and remote communities. 

This offers a huge step for Northern mines that have a difficulty investing in infrastructure. Using the Nomad, powered by CEP and Solvest, mines have the advantage of cutting labour cost because the solar power source comes prefabricated. This cuts down on cost and time, which results in energy savings. The Nomad is also bifacial, which means that the structure has solar panels on both faces, which in turn produces more energy. In addition, the structure contains a tracker, which follows the sun’s highest influx, which increases power production even more. This is a real game changer that will allow Northern mines to be more financially stable and environmentally friendly. 

A big issue in northern mines is the lack of infrastructure and this causes investments to be withhold. As a result, many mines relay on diesel that must be transported on ice roads and stored. Other than imposing a high cost of transportation and storage, it also leads to a significant environmental risk. 

Although using diesel is more conventional, it is not much cheaper that solar power. The expense of using diesel can reach up to $0.25 to $0.35 per kWh. The most promising solution to offer a solar power source is by using solar photovoltaic (PV) power. After a thorough analysis, CEP and Solvest saw that integrating both sources, diesel and PV, can result in a much cleaner and cost-effective solution. This is mainly because installtion solely solar power exceeds the profit of any mine. 

With that being said, using the integration of solar power with diesel in most of Africa seems to be a good alternative, where sun is there around the year to offer a power source. The next logical step is to bring this to Northern Canada. This will mostly be advantageous during the cleared sky and long summer days. 

  

Reference: 

Bruce, T., C., Schultz, M., & S. (2020). Solar Energy in the North? It’s Now Much Cheaper Thank You Think. Canadian Mining Magazine, 43-45. 

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