Flexible low-load gensets ‘game changer’ says report

Traditional gensets are being modified to run in low-load mode with minimal fuel consumption, but with the ability to respond quickly to output changes from an allied solar photoltaic (PV) array or to changes in demand. Such devices are finding increasing application in the mining industry, a new report concludes.

The new study, ‘Low-load Gensets for Solar-diesel Hybrid Plants in the Mining Industry’, analyses the technical and strategic fit of low-load gensets for solar-diesel hybrid applications, showing that low-load gensets almost double the solar penetration rate in solar-diesel hybrid systems and are more efficient in hybrid plants.

This solution has the potential to considerably lower the operational costs of mines, the report notes, adding that the fast spinning reserve of the low-load diesel systems ensures supply in case of variation of demand or of PV production losses, for example from shading.

An attractive target for solar–diesel hybrid plants is the mining industry as power consumption is usually high and mines are typically in remote locations with high costs for diesel and for its transport, the analysis concludes.

‘The demand for raw materials has slowed down and prices have decreased recently. The mining industry is facing substantial challenges. Reducing the costs of operations such as energy expenditures has become an important competitive factor. One of the game changers could be low-load diesel hybrid power plants giving maximal room to locally produced inexpensive solar and/or wind energy. Even at the current low oil prices, optimized hybrid technologies normally beat the current conventional diesel-based electricity prices. The additional investment including the PV system has usually a pay-off period in the range of 4 to 7 years,‘ said Dr. Thomas Hillig, CEO of Munich-based THEnergy.

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