B2Gold Namibia recently launched the B2Gold Otjikoto Solar Farm in the country. The solar plant is set to be one of the largest of its kind in Namibia. This comes barely one year after the firm broke ground on the construction of a 7 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant at its Otjikoto Mine.
The minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo said that the Otjikoto Solar Farm will deliver positive economic, environmental and social impacts that is likely to outlive the life of mine. It will serve as a sustainable power solution. This is even as B2Gold works to improve economic returns as well as reduce impacts on the environment. The plant could also potentially be a funding source for community development.
Prior to the inclusion of the solar plant to the mine’s energy portfolio, the Otjikoto mine obtained 100% of its energy requirements from 24 MW of installed generation capacity at the Otjikoto power plant. This comprised of heavy fuel oil (HFO) diesel generators. The constant energy demand saw the plant consume 21.7m litres for the duration of 2017. This costed the firm approximately $10.5m.
John Roos, B2Gold Namibia’s manager for projects & compliance said the project was approved in October 2016 with an estimated project cost of US $8.5m. He further added that the solar PV array comprises approximately 62,400 115 watt (W) CAT thin film solar panels.
The feasibility studies indicate an expected savings of 20% of HFO consumption. This is through the reduction of load to the power plant as well as savings on maintenance costs on the power plant’s HFO engines. This year, B2Gold has a projected reduced energy costs of 14%.
B2Gold is also considering the utilization of the solar plant as an income-generating asset. This, of course, is after the mine closes due to depletion of its reserves. Furthermore, the funds generated by this asset could be used to support ongoing CSR activities in the region long after the mine has shut down.