Solar panels and windmills are powering up homes and businesses at a growing rate. However, they also are making an impact in some unlikely industries. According to a recent study by Navigant Research, the global mining industry is increasingly relying on renewables to meet its energy needs.
Released in the first quarter of 2019, the study titled “Renewable Energy in the Mining Industry” analyzes and forecasts the integration of renewable technologies that supply power to mines. It focuses mostly on on-site generation of systems up to about 10 megawatts (MW) of capacity, although it does include data from larger, off-site facilities. The study focuses on solar PV, wind and energy storage.
Navigant describes the trillion-dollar mining industry as “notoriously energy intensive.” According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 11 percent of the total global energy consumption is attributed to the mining sector.
While mines get most of their energy from on-site diesel generators, many operations are migrating to renewables. According to Navigant, several factors are contributing to this change. The declining costs of renewables have made it a more cost-effective proposition for mining operators, even in parts of the world where renewables do not receive support from government subsidies. Reliability is also an important consideration for mining, and renewables are increasingly providing a reliable source of backup generation, especially in the form of solar or wind combined with storage. Finally, the combination of regulations, environmental awareness and corporate social responsibility are compelling more mining operations to migrate to renewables.
Although the industry has been slow to adopt renewable power, Navigant expects the total global renewable generating capacity in mining to grow from less than 80 MW in 2018 to more than 160 MW in 2027. Navigant projects the Asian mining industry to comprise the largest share of renewable generation and the largest share of growth from about 30 MW in 2018 to 80 MW in 2027. In North America, Navigant expects renewable power adoption in mining to be much less significant.