SA’s biggest gold mine moving to solar power

Gold Field’s South Deep mine, SA’s biggest gold mine, is switching to solar power later this year. The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) gave the mining company the go-ahead to build a solar power plant in 2021.

Reports have revealed that the move to solar power will save R123 million in electricity costs and mitigate load shedding disruptions. This is aside from the lowering of its carbon footprint.

South Deep’s Khanyisa solar power plant will have more than 100 000 photovoltaic panels. When it is fully operational, the power plant will account for 24% of the mining company’s annual electricity consumption.

The mine’s carbon footprint will be reduced by over 110 000 tonnes of CO2 per year. The plant will cost R715 million to build and operate and is said to be functional in the third quarter of this year.

Pressure on Eskom will be reduced thanks to the mining company’s move

While the mining company’s electricity costs will be reduced, it will also take pressure off Eskom. Business Insider reports that the mining industry in SA consumes around 30% of Eskom’s annual power supply.

With South Deep decreasing its reliance on the embattled power utility, more energy will be available for the rest of the country. 

Morning and evening peaks are still a concern

Gold Field’s Executive Vice President Martin Preece explained that a challenge still remains.

“One of our challenges in interactions with Eskom has been the normal morning and evening peaks and concern raised by Eskom that as the solar comes off everybody is arriving home, cooking dinner, running baths, and similar things… and they get a double spike,”

said  Preece during a presentation on the Khanyisa plant in 2021.

Gold Field’s CEO also revealed that the company is looking at wind power. Photo: goldfields-southdeep.co.za

Preece added that they are looking at how to shift maintenance activities into evenings and morning peak windows in order to take pressure off Eskom. Gold Field’s CEO Chris Griffith also revealed that the company was examining wind power at South Deep.

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