Gold miner B2Gold has inaugurated a major solar farm at its Otjikoto mine in Namibia in what energy minister Tom Alweendo calls “yet another significant contribution in the private sector’s drive for sustainable energy solutions.”
The 7MW Otjikoto Solar Farm will be one of the largest installations of its kind in Namibia according to its developers.
“It will serve as a sustainable power solution as B2Gold works to improve economic returns, reduce impacts on the environment and could potentially be a funding source for community development,” said Mr Alweendo.
Commenting on why they hatched the solar project, John Roos, B2Gold Namibia’s manager for projects & compliance cited a combination of issues among them environmental concerns and the need to be a low-cost producer.
“As you know we at B2Gold are committed to environmental stewardship. We wanted to reduce dependence on heavy fuel oil (HFO) diesel generators given the increasing oil prices,” explained Mr Roos.
It is due to these challenges that B2Gold project team embarked upon a detailed financial feasibility study early in 2016 to prove the financial viability of adding a 7 MW solar plant to Otjikoto’s energy portfolio.
And in 2017, B2Gold broke ground on the construction of the 7 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant in the Otjozondjupa region.
The project team evaluated a number of potential vendors within a very competitive solar industry in Namibia. CAT Microgrid Solutions, through their local dealer Barloworld Power South Africa, was chosen for the construction of the solar plant.
The solar PV array comprises approximately 62,400 115 watt (W) CAT thin film solar panels, manufactured by First Solar. These panels are mounted on a PiA solar tracking system.
DC power is converted to AC power through 240 Sunny tri-power three-phase SMA string inverters. Energy generated by the solar plant is evacuated to the Otjikoto power plant by a 3.5 km powerline.
The CAT MMC (installed at the Otjikoto power plant) controls the flow of energy from the solar to the power plant.
The feasibility studies indicate an 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.
Otjikoto Solar Farm is expected to help B2Gold to reduce energy costs by 14% in 2018.