Gold Fields’ South Deep Gold Mine’s 50MW Solar PV Plant In South Africa Exemplifies The Beauty Of Solar

Construction of the 50 MW Khanyisa solar PV plant at Gold Fields’ South Deep[1] Mine in South Africa has just been completed. Khanyisa means Light Up in Setswana. The name was chosen by the people of South Deep. South Deep is in the process of finalizing the commissioning and optimizing of the plant. The commissioning process involves balancing supply and demand of self-generated electricity to fully optimize the plant and ensure maximum benefit.

The R715 million ($38 million) solar plant will enhance the sustainability of South Deep and contribute to Gold Fields’ long-term commitment to Net Zero. Gold Fields is aiming for 30% of renewable energy by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050. South Deep currently consumes around 494 GWh of electricity per year, which represents 10% of the mine’s annual costs and 93% of its carbon emissions. South Africa’s grid is mostly powered by coal.

South Deep’s current maximum demand is around 60 MW. The new 50 MW plant will generate 103 GWh per year. The Khanyisa plant will help lower energy costs dramatically, saving around R123 million ($6.7 million), or 24% of electricity costs per year. It will also reduce the mine’s carbon footprint by around 110,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

South Deep’s Average Demand Profile

There are plans to expand the Khanyisa solar plant’s capacity to 60 MW, unlocking even further benefits. Martin Preece, Executive Vice President Gold Fields South Africa said: “Not only will the solar plant result in electricity cost savings and reduce our reliance on the erratic national grid, but it will also help to mitigate our impact on climate change. Decarbonisation is vital and the right thing to do. We want to be a part of the solution and will continue to drive energy efficiency initiatives; replace grid power with renewables such as solar, and wind; and replace our diesel fleet with battery electric vehicles over time.

“South Deep has made significant strides towards delivering sustainable performance, and we will continue to work towards positioning our mine for the future for our people, our communities, our stakeholders and our shareholders,” he concluded.

Gold Fields Limited operates 9 mines in Australia, Peru, South Africa, and West Africa (including the Asanko Joint Venture), and one project in Chile.

The 50MW solar plant is made up of 101,000 x 550W solar panels and 340 x 150 kW inverters. About 240 jobs were created during the construction of the plant, including 12 permanent jobs. The solar plant covers an area of 105ha, which is roughly the size of 200 soccer fields. Gold Fields’ South Deep Gold Mine’s 50 MW solar PV plant in South Africa exemplifies the beauty of solar. Within a short space of time, large energy consumers can add significant generation capacity to offset consumption from the grid and enjoy some clean kWhs at a much cheaper price. In this case, South Deep mine will save almost $7 million per  year on its huge electric bill. The move will also go along way in reducing the mines consumption from South Africa’s coal-dominated grid.

Last year, the threshold for companies in South Africa to produce their own electricity without a license was increased from 1 MW to 100 MW[2].  The new threshold was introduced to catalyze private sector investment into the electricity sector. This move will go a long way in relieving pressure on Eskom, the national power utility company, and is one of the quickest ways to plug the country’s massive deficit in the electricity generation sector. We hope to see more of these large solar PV projects from heavy consumers in the country.

Images from Gold Fields


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