B2Gold opens 7 MW solar farm at Namibia mine

31 May 2018

Gold producer B2Gold Namibia on Wednesday celebrated the opening of the B2Gold Otjikoto solar farm, in the Otjozondjupa region.

Namibian Mines and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo. He stated that the Otjikoto solar farm is “another significant contribution in the private sector’s drive for sustainable energy solutions”.

B2Gold broke ground on the construction of a 7 MW photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant at its Otjikoto mine, in 2017.

“This solar plant will deliver positive economic, environmental and social impacts that are likely to outlive the life-of-mine,” Alweendo said.

Previously, the Otjikoto mine obtained 100% of its energy requirements from 24 MW of installed generation capacity at the Otjikoto power plant, comprising of heavy fuel oil (HFO) diesel generators. With a consistent demand of 12.5 MW all day, the plant consumed 21.7-million litres of HFO during 2017, costing about $10.5-million.

At the opening of the plant, B2Gold Namibia projects and compliance manager John Roos outlined the reasoning for the facility’s development, which included B2Gold’s commitment to environmental stewardship, its dependence on a steady supply of HFO, which also exposed it to increasing oil prices, and the company’s focus to remain a low-cost producer.

Caterpillar’s CAT Microgrid Solutions, through its local dealer Barloworld Power South Africa, was chosen for the construction of the solar plant based on the technical capabilities of the CAT Master Microgrid Controller (MMC), which has been designed specifically to seamlessly integrate solar PV energy with Otjikoto’s HFO and high-speed engines.

This indicates the MMC having the capability to automatically select the cheapest form of energy (from the multiple sources of energy available) with no human intervention. Energy generated by the solar plant is evacuated to the Otjikoto power plant by a 3.5 km powerline. The CAT MMC, which is installed at the Otjikoto power plant, controls the flow of energy from the solar to the power plant.

The feasibility studies indicated expected savings of 20% of HFO consumption through the reduction of load to the power plant, as well as savings on maintenance costs on the power plant’s HFO engines. B2Gold expects it will reduce energy costs by 14% for this year.

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