1. The Degrussa Mine
The Degrussa Mine is the largest, integrated off-grid solar and battery storage system in the world. This copper and gold mine is located “way down under” in sunny Australia in what Australian locals call, the bush. Remotely located 900 miles north of Perth, the closest town of Meekathare is about 30 miles away.
Due to its location, the mine was always off-grid since 2012 when mining began in that region. However, the source of energy was not solar. As is typical with most off-grid locations, diesel-fueled generators are relied on heavily to provide electrical power. Degrussa was no exception until 2015 when a leading French renewable energy firm, Neoen, offered their assistance and the possibility of going off-grid by solar power started becoming a reality. Juwi Renewable Energy headed the design and execution of the project. They chose a 10.6 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) panel and battery system to compliment the 23 MW diesel-fired power station currently already on site. This new combo provides a hybrid power system to ensure consistent energy for the mine.
Now with the project’s completion, sprawled out across the red Australian earth 34,080 glitterings, solar PV panels sit perched on 4,700 steel posts. The panels themselves cover 49 acres of land. The panels follow the sun’s movement throughout the day while riding on a single-axis tracking system. But single-axis tracking won’t get the job done alone. A 6 MW lithium-ion battery station partnered with the tracking system and panels now successfully employ the sun’s rays to their fullest potential.
The system’s monthly final product is more than satisfying to both Juwi and the Sandfire Resources mining company. 1.7 GW of clean electricity is channeled through the mine and supplies most of its daily needs. Since the switch to off-grid solar, the mine saves an estimated 5 million liters of diesel fuel yearly and the air from 12 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions as well.
2. Robben Island
Robben Island, a world heritage site, infamous for it’s maximum security prison, but famous for the man who was imprisoned there, Nelson Mandela, soaks up the sun in Table Bay approximately 4 miles west of Cape Town, South Africa. Not only does Robben Island’s deeply embedded history date back to the 1400s when it was first discovered by a Portuguese explorer, but it is also the home of a variety of distinct animal species including the endangered African jackass penguin. Now, this oval-shaped island of 2 square miles is joining hands with the sun and off grid solar power to bring an even brighter future to its inhabitants, wildlife, and thousands of yearly tourists.
Robben Island has been isolated from the mainland’s electrical grid for years. Today the island is being powered by a solar PV microgrid. In October 2017, the Minister of Tourism stepped in with a vision that would help preserve the historic island and cut back on its dependency on expensive fossil fuels. With the sun as their guide the Department of Tourism commissioned the project. SOLA Future Energy was rewarded development of the project and created the island’s 666.4 kW solar PV and battery storage micro grid. The solar farm, planted by the coast, boasts of 1,960 solar panels that soak in the daily sunshine with the rhythmic sounds of the waves breaking in the background. The power harnessed by these solar panels is equivalent to one million kilowatts of electricity a year.
Its impressive design includes one of the largest battery banks in the Southern Hemisphere. The 2420 lithium-ion battery cells of the battery bank can store up to 837 kWh of electricity. When running full strength it can generate 500 kW of electrical power.
Previously, when the island relied entirely on its noisy, diesel-hungry generators the quality of its energy supply fluctuated. The unbalanced energy was characterized by peaks and troughs in the energy supply. Now with the new battery inverters, the stabilized grid results in better overall production of power and better maintenance for the equipment and machinery.
Sola Future Energy completed the project in two months and the result was a success. The new system is capable of completely supplying the island’s daily electrical needs. It’s surplus energy storage covers for the cloudy days and even into some nights. Off grid solar power now saves Robben Island 275,000 liters of diesel yearly, and the island’s environment and wildlife are actively being preserved by the 820 tons of CO2 emissions removed yearly from the air. This already historic island continues to make history as it moves towards the future which continues to look brighter than ever, thanks to solar power.
3. Off-Grid Nigeria
Africa is a continent laden with reserves of natural gas, crude oil, and tons of coal, but there is an even greater source for energy available…renewable energy. Many Africans are without reliable electricity or any at all. Currently, worldwide, 1.6 billion people are without electricity and half of that number are located in Africa. In Nigeria alone, 90 million people are without consistent electricity. Now more than ever, the Nigerian people are looking towards the sun as their hope for future reliable energy.
Thanks to off grid solar this dream is becoming a reality. The Nigerian energy companies Rubetec, GoSolar, GVE, and Nayo Tropical came together to create six mini pilot grids. These mini pilot grids supply 15,000 people from 5 different Nigerian states with electricity that is reliable for the very first time.
Mini grids are promising for a few reasons. First, these mini grids take only one month to build. Second, the mini grids offer low-cost electricity. Third, mini grids offer electricity that is reliable and far reaching.
So how does a mini grid work? Let’s look at the village of Gbamu-Gbamu in the Ogun state of Nigeria. Nigerians have been given many unfilled promises in regards to electricity coming to their village. The villagers of Gbamu-Gbamu were no exception. Naturally they were skeptical when the first winds of the mini pilot grids blew their way. But Rubitec Solar came into their village equipped with an action plan that spoke louder than words.
Within a month, Rubitec Solar constructed an 85 kW solar, hybrid mini-grid that changed the lives of the villagers. The mini-grid partners with 300 large solar panels that are connected to a small energy station. The panels do their part in gathering the sun’s energy, while inside the station, the imported inverters and batteries do theirs by storing enough energy for the village’s needs. Wires strung on wooden poles provided the last connecting factor for transferring reliable 24-hour electricity to Gbamu-Gbamu for its first time.
4. Gippsland Dairy Farm
Gippsland dairy farm is an average dairy farm. But only average in that it has cows and milking cycles and it uses a lot of energy to run smoothly. In 2016 this dairy farm stepped off the grid and ran independently of the main electrical grid throughout the summer and winter of that year. Although it was not part of the farm’s original plan to go completely off grid, complications within the dairy’s current grid system pushed them off grid despite the potential risks. One of the risks being the dairy farm’s location.
Gippsland dairy farm accents the beautiful countryside of Southeast Victoria, Australia. The area has a temperate climate with short winter days. These shorter days mean less sun and solar power’s dependency on sunlight requires sun exposure to be maximized for generating enough energy. Additionally, the farm depends on large quantities of energy to keep all its operations running, especially during its two daily milking cycles.
In spite of this, the farm moved forward and Clean Energy Reviews, led by Jason Svarc, began development of the project. They considered the dairy’s needs and incorporated the best possible inverters to ensure adequate power. 20kW multi-mode battery inverters were perfect for the job. Now, 240 solar panels decorate the roofs of the farm and provide the majority of energy for the farm’s needs. Additional assistance is provided by 31 kW vertical axis wind turbines. Together, the panels and turbines keep the large 240 kWh battery bank charged.
The project fully powered the dairy farm during the summer. Its solar panels and wind turbines directly powered the afternoon milking while the early morning milking relied on energy from the battery bank. With a close eye on the project during the winter months, some flexibility, and thoughtful tweaking of some of its operations, it remained powered. The dairy only had to reach into the old power reserve for 8-10 morning milking cycles during this time.
The Gippsland Dairy Farm is one of its kind in Australia. Imagine the empowering feeling of running your farm 99% of the year on clean, natural energy. Now this farmer saves $30,000 a year since his switch to off-grid solar power. Clean Energy Reviews is happy, the farmer is happy, and even the cows are happier.
5. Colville Lake Settlement
When thinking of Canadian climate, mental pictures of cold, snowy winter days and long, dark winter months typically come to mind. Rarely do you dream of off-grid solar power while sitting beneath the phenomenal northern lights dancing across the dark sky. But a tiny, off-grid community 31 miles from the Arctic Circle has done just that and is no longer dreaming.
Colville Lake, Northwest Territories, in the Sahtu Region is one of Canada’s smallest settlements. This pioneer community, home to about 160 people, was the first of its kind to replace the old, unstable, diesel power plant of the past with a new, hybrid PV, diesel, and battery system.
The project officially opened in May 2016, but the dream had already begun in 2013 when Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) saw the need to upgrade the community’s power system. They decided to look to renewable energy for the answer. NTPC rallied a team to develop and to prepare the project. They chose Saft to provide a battery system with 232 kWh of energy. Saft designed a container that could hold up against the region’s brutally cold environment. The 20 ft container protects the four battery modules against temperatures as low as -50 °C. Green Sun Rising from Ontario developed the 81 kW solar PV system with its 546 solar panels including 330 panels with capacity to float on permafrost.
Before this unique switch, the community’s only source of power came from unreliable diesel. Diesel was expensive and because Colville Lake was so remote, it made yearly transportation difficult and sometimes treacherous. Only one, seasonal, icy, winter road open 6 weeks out of the year leads to the community. The old, generator system suffered from recurrent electrical spikes. 60 power outages were recorded in the year previous to the switch. Even simple tasks of using the kitchen stove, if operated by too many in the community at once, could trigger spikes, resulting in the generator shutting down. Now with the new 136 kW solar PV system generating 112 MWh of energy per year, Colville Lake has enjoyed a significant drop in power outages.
During the summer months, 24-hour sunlight fully charges the powerful lithium-ion batteries. When the batteries are fully charged, both the solar and diesel generators can be shut off. Consequently, the diesel generators are completely shut down during the summer, and during the winter they are used much less. The community’s diesel consumption has been reduced by 40%.