The B2Gold Otjikoto mine in Namibia will soon be powered by a high-performance PV solar energy solution from Barloworld Power. The first phase of the project will supply the mine with 7.061 MWp of PV solar capacity, making it one of the largest solar installations in the country to date.
Awarded to Barloworld on 9 June 2017, the project includes 62 400 Cat Thin Film PV modules in a ground-mounted single-axle tracker structure with mounting tables.
The installation incorporates AC combiner boxes, step-up transformers from 1 000V to 6.6 kV, 6.6 kV MV switchgear, and a 3.3 km 6.6 kV distribution line. The thin film PV solar energy panels are manufactured by First Solar, a global leader in PV solar energy solutions, with more than 13.5 GW sold worldwide. These Cat-branded panels offer improved performance over conventional silicon solar panels.
As Caterpillar’s Southern Africa dealer for power systems, Barloworld Power is supplying engineering, procurement and construction services for the project.
The PV solar system will tie into the mine’s existing reticulation system using a Cat microgrid master controller (MMC). Barloworld Power project manager, Jac Hough, who is responsible for the contract, says the use of a Cat MMC to integrate the PV solution with the existing mine power plant to save fuel is unique in the Southern African mining sector.
Hough says Otjikoto’s power is currently supplied solely by four Cat 5 MW heavy fuel oil generators, supported by three back-up Cat diesel generators.
The Cat MMC ensures loads are continuously energised by selecting the highest-quality power at the lowest cost. It manages the flow of energy from every source in the system, including the main grid when connected. In addition, the MMC uses Cat Connect technology – this enables real-time communication of on-site performance data, which can be monitored as well as analysed remotely.
Once the new PV solar plant is fully commissioned in April 2018, solar power will be used to reduce reliance on the current power source, with significant savings in maintenance and fuel costs.
The mine is exploring the viability of future expansion of the solar plant, for which infrastructural provisions have already been made. The mine will also study the option of linking into the local NamPower grid to effect further reductions in its power costs.
IN THE LINE-UP
The B2Gold award follows the outstanding application of new technology at sister firm Barloworld Equipment’s Isando campus, in South Africa. This highly successful test site marked the first application of Cat Thin Film PV solar energy in Southern Africa.
It provides the campus with 47 237 kWh of renewable power per month, with estimated savings of ZAR793 590 on its annual energy bill. What’s more, it reduces carbon emissions by 594 tons per annum.
Caterpillar’s solar PV system offers reliable and predictable energy in all climates and applications, with the modules independently tested to pass accelerated life and stress tests beyond industry standards.
The solar PV offering is a key component of the Cat Microgrid technology suite – an innovative line-up of power systems that adds environmentally friendly solar panels, energy storage, and advanced monitoring and control systems to Caterpillar’s traditional line of power-generation equipment.
This includes heavy fuel oil, natural gas, biogas and diesel generator sets, switchgear and automatic transfer switches.
The Cat Microgrid technology suite is designed to lessen fuel expenses, lower utility bills, decrease emissions and reduce the total cost of ownership while increasing energy efficiency in challenging environments.
According to Louis Botha, sales manager at Barloworld Power, the PV solar technology is not only cost-efficient and environmentally friendly but can also be fully integrated with other Caterpillar power technologies.