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Monica_55905 Jun 26

RENEWABLES MEETS MINING

RENEWABLES MEETS MINING image
Interview with Gustavo Fernandes, Head of International Development at Voltalia. 
Founded in 2005, Voltalia is a renewable power producer and service provider from solar, wind, hydro and biomass energies. As an integrated company, Voltalia has developed strong expertise throughout the value chain of a renewable project: project development, project financing, EPC and O&M.

What are the environmental and economic benefits of implementing renewable energy generation towards the mining sector?

Today the mining sector is looking to renewables as one way to reduce costs as the main benefit. Following this we have the benefit of reducing grid reliance and decreasing the environmental impact. Implementation of renewable energy at mines doesn’t mean to completely move away from grid power, but is one way to promote effective energy planning for their operations. This planning needs to be done in the short, medium and long term to achieve the lowest cost of energy for a mine. Thanks for the technology we are now to create solutions that work very well for mines - quick to install and easily replacing the current thermal generation.

All solutions developed by Voltalia promote local development, so not only powering the local communities to give access to reliable and affordable energy, but also promoting economic development with the creation of local employment.

Based on your current operations, what has proven to be the best hybrid solution to ensure continuity of power procurement? Or is this a case of one solution never fitting all?

We work in a collaborative approach with the mine to understand their needs and how to maximize the returns. Each site and each mine operations is a unique case and usually we define working groups which then procure the best way to achieve the requirements. Through a multi technology offer we can combine different technologies such as solar, wind, hydro, storage and thermal to achieve a unique solution. The objective is to combine all these technologies and achieve the lowest cost of energy for the mine.

Which remain Africa’s biggest problems when it comes to adopting RE hybrid solutions?

The main hurdles we find in Africa concerning the adoption of renewables are legislation and operational challenges. Legislation is usually particular and unique to each country and/or region and this has an impact on obtaining all permits, licenses and agreements needed. Operational challenges are related to the difficulties we have in very remote locations, for examples logistics on how to take the equipment from the nearest sea port or how to get local people trained.

How is this linked to ending Africa’s energy poverty, and the fact that 75% of people is still not connected to any efficient grid?

Creating this remote power generation will promote the access and improvement of grid access to the local communities. A mine has a limited life cycle and we believe the implementation of renewable energy resources and the production of electricity, initially using the mine as the anchor off-taker, can ultimately lead to contributing to the power grid in the area long after the mine has closed, thereby creating a sustainable economy in the long-term.

What’s your contribution to the communities you work in, and how do you measure a good upwards progress?  What are the most important factors you measure to ensure this improvement?

As mentioned previously, Voltalia is committed to the local development which can be realised through the recruitment of local people during the construction and operational life of the asset. On top of this we create positive impact with our social projects where we help people undertake economic activities and gain access to education, health and other social activities as part of our long term plans. In Brazil we’ve put in place projects which are benefiting the local communities where our projects are located. Some examples are: facilities to promote integration (social and sports) and improving access of local communities to health and education.