B2Gold commissions solar-battery hybrid system at Fekola in Mali

15 April 2021 – Canadian gold mining company B2Gold has commissioned the world’s largest off-grid solar-battery hybrid system at its Fekola mine in Mali. The solar-battery hybrid plant was integrated and commissioned successfully with the existing power plant operation, and the solar plant is on course to be 100% complete by the end of June.

German solar energy provider Suntrace and American based BayWa r.e., together with B2Gold completed commissioning of the world’s largest off-grid solar-battery hybrid system for the mining industry, at the Fekola gold mine in Mali, West Africa.

Hybrid projects such as this, which combine solar energy with conventional energy generation and battery storage, are an effective way to provide reliable power supply day and night in off-grid areas. Ideally suited to their needs, B2Gold approved the hybrid project for implementation in July 2019, following completion of preliminary studies by Suntrace and BayWa r.e.

The Fekola gold mine operates 24-hours a day. During the daytime, the new 30 MW solar plant allows three out of six heavy fuel oil generators to be shut down; the energy production of the residual three generators could also be significantly reduced. The 15.4 MWh battery storage compensates energy generation fluctuations and assures a reliable operation, which allows up to 75% of the electricity demand of the gold mine to be covered by renewable energy during the daytime.

According to Dennis Stansbury, Senior Vice President at B2Gold, the implementation of a solar-battery hybrid system has played a vital role in B2Gold’s goal of more sustainable production at Fekola, not only for its environmental credentials, but also its economic viability. “This is a landmark project which we expect to pave the way for more sustainable power generation within the mining industry in West Africa,” says Stansbury.

The integration of the solar power plant with the battery system will ensure safe and reliable power, saving 13.1 million litres of heavy fuel oil (HFO) a year. The close collaboration of all three parties as one team was vital to implementing this complex project, helping to realise the huge potential of solar battery hybrid systems.

Martin Schlecht, COO at Suntrace, says the system will reduce CO2 emissions from power generation for the Fekola mine by about 20% and will help to reduce CO2 emissions by 39 000 tonnes per year. According to Thorsten Althaus, Project Manager at BayWa r.e., integrating such a large amount of solar into a small, isolated grid safely and reliably was a major technical challenge and required the use of battery storage as well as a tailor-made control system. “This was conceptualised in the early stages of the project and we ensured that our vision was implemented accordingly by the suppliers. It is extremely rewarding to see how well this solution performs in reality and shows that the technology works and is just waiting to be applied on further projects,” says Althaus.

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