WASHINGTON – The decision to install a 3 MW wind turbine at Glencore’s Raglan mine came after nearly five years of careful investigation, assessment, and analysis, says Jean-Francois Verret, director of strategy, projects, and public affairs.
Because of the Arctic conditions at the mining site, which sits on the Ungava Peninsula, in Nunavik, roughly 1 800 km north of Montreal, gathering in-depth data was an essential first step.
This summer, the Raglan mine began installing its first wind turbine, manufactured by Enercon, in Germany. If all goes as planned, Verret predicts that this wind turbine would replace about 5% of the mine’s diesel consumption – or 2.4-million litres of diesel.
A project like this also holds out the promise of significant cost savings. At the Raglan mine, energy typically accounts for 18% to 23% of operating costs. If the wind pilot goes well, Raglan was considering installing additional wind turbines that could generate a total of 9 MW to 12 MW of energy, slashing the mine’s overall diesel consumption by 40%.
In 2009, Raglan launched a study to investigate options for the mine and its fully diesel-powered operations. The nickel/copper mine’s remote locale meant that it would be impossible to connect to the hydroelectric grid or to the natural gas network.
Very quickly, said Verret, the study showed that wind was a promising option. Raglan placed wind measurement systems around the property and began collecting data.
Only after simulations and gathering concrete data did the mine team approach corporate for approval. Verret emphasised the importance of having actual numbers to bolster the first approval request, which was made in 2010/11.
“The intention of that request was to inform corporate that Raglan mine was sitting on a very intensive wind current, and it was worthwhile to study [wind] technologies,” he says.
Next, Raglan conducted a benchmark study in Alaska, Switzerland, and Scandinavia to observe how wind turbines fare in harsh climates. The company then embarked upon a scoping study, looking at how the investment framework would work with select manufacturers experienced at working with Nordic or Arctic parameters.
The company created a financial framework in November 2012, which combined government incentives for reducing greenhouse gases and grants available to companies using renewable energy. Once a financial framework was in place, the energy team again approached corporate.
TECHNOLOGY IN ARCTIC CONDITIONS
Choosing to buy from Enercon was not a difficult decision because there were so few manufacturers producing Arctic-class wind turbines, says Verret.
What was truly innovative was the decision to incorporate three storage technologies – a flywheel, batteries, and a hydrogen storage loop with an electrolyser and fuel cells – in addition to the wind turbine.
Verret explained that wind turbines on their own might have a wind penetration of 15% to 20%. “The penetration level for wind turbines is very low,” he says. “When the wind blows, it’s good, but when the wind doesn’t blow, you can’t really leverage your assets.”
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