Brisbane’s Redflow pitches flow batteries to mining operations

Brisbane-based battery maker Redflow has called on miners to ditch diesel generation in favour of increasingly competitive renewable energy and large-scale energy storage, as part of a campaign targeting Australia’s remote and off-grid resources sector.

Redflow CEO Stuart Smith said on Wednesday that embracing renewable energy coupled with batteries like Redflow’s unique zinc bromide flow technology could help drive down costs at remote and off-grid mine sites and replace outmoded diesel generators.

Smith said that in light of the current mining market decline – which, somewhat ironically, at least in the case of coal mining, can be partially attributed to the rise of cheaper renewables and battery storage – it was imperative that miners investigated how better energy management could reduce operating costs.

“Energy storage systems alongside solar arrays can deliver significant cost savings when compared with the infrastructure costs of setting up gas reticulation or using diesel generators,” Smith said. “Especially the cost of fuel when mine sites are not grid-connected.”

Of course, many miners in remote regions of Australia – and other global mining centres, such as Chile – are already well abreast of the benefits of using solar and storage to power their operations.

And in a white paper on the topic, Redflow points to pioneering Australia examples, like the DeGrussa Sandfire mine, north-east of Perth, which is investing $40 million to construct a 10.6MW solar power station by 2016.

It also cites Rio Tinto, which has deployed 6.7MW of solar photovoltaic generation for an off-grid mine, township and port to support its bauxite mining operations at Weipa, in Far North Queensland. Rio Tinto is currently adding an extra 5MW of solar panels, with integrated energy storage, to reduce diesel demand.

Another worth mentioning is the solar plus storage project (using a Vanadium Redox Battery system) being built by an Australian company to power a vanadium mining project in the Northern Territory.

As Smith notes, miners are discovering that large-scale energy storage can provide a cost-effective off-grid solution when coupled with renewables like solar.

“You can also use energy storage to safeguard against grid blackouts, delivering significant cost savings by reduced disruption during power outages,” he said.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd