"We are the leading utility-scale solar PV EPC company in South Africa with 400 MW installed capacity and are expanding our presence into Africa."
Can you give an overview of juwi and the company’s history in the Southern African region?
RD: juwi was founded 25 years ago and specializes in renewable energy solutions. We are the leading utility-scale solar PV EPC company in South Africa with 400 MW installed capacity and are expanding our presence into Africa. We are currently building a 10 MW project for Pan African Resources in South Africa and are involved in creating the world’ largest offgrid/hybrid facility at the Sukari gold mine in Egypt. Our head office is in Germany and we have strong local project development, EPC and O&M capabilities in our offices in Cape Town, from where we serve the African region.
What have been some of juwi’s major milestones over the past few years?
RD: Historically, juwi has had a strong profile in government-sponsored utility-scale projects because renewable energy was driven by subsidies. Now renewable energy costs are much lower than the grid and there has been a substantial shift towards direct procurement from private PPAs. The mining industry is also moving towards utilizing more renewable energies to support their emission reduction goals.
PD: In 2016, juwi completed the 10.6 MW solar hybrid system which was integrated with an existing 19 MW diesel-fired power station at the DeGrussa mine in Australia. This was a flagship project for the mining industry and has set the scene for mining companies with off-grid operations considering emission reduction schemes. Since the DeGrussa project, juwi has deployed a number of off-grid projects in Australia and we are now in the process of deploying our first projects in Africa. The last 12 months has seen an exciting step change in the interest from the mining industry for renewable energy, which we see is driven by three key factors – confidence in technology, competitive (or cheaper) cost of supply and ambitious carbon emission commitments.
What makes hybrid energy solutions an attractive option for mines?
PD: As part of emissions reduction planning, most mining operations identify that the first step in the process is the deployment of renewable energy and energy efficacy schemes to reduce electricity consumption from fossil fuels. This transition is made easier by the fact that the deployment of these systems is a cheaper alternative to conventional generation, which improves the all-in sustaining costs of the operations. These systems also reduce the risk of price volatility from fossil fuel based electricity, which is a key concern for most operations.
From a technical perspective, battery storage is fast becoming a key contributor to hybrid power systems as an enabler for high penetrations of renewable energy. Interestingly, these battery systems have inherent functionality that significantly improves the grid stability of these sites even when the sun is not shining and wind is not blowing.
Can you elaborate on juwi’s project at the Elikhulu Gold Retreatment Plant and how bi-facial module technologies can maximize yield?
RD: The grid connected renewable energy project is the largest project and the first of its kind in the South African mining space and will provide 30% of the annual energy needs for the site. The solar photovoltaic plant will utilize bi-facial module technology (collects sunlight from both faces) mounted onto a single-axis tracking system, the combination of which will maximize the energy yield from the available land area. This reduces the overall cost of electricity at the site and the sites environmental impact.
Comparing solar and wind technologies, what adoption trends are you witnessing in the mining industry?
PD: Many mines are on an emissions reduction journey, and what we are seeing is that companies are employing a staged approach of deployment of renewables over the coming 5-20 years. This may start with wind or solar PV, but in order to get close to achieving 100% renewable energy and matching the load (particularly for off-grid sites), a combination of the two technologies is required. The key to success in these projects is in the detailed engineering/planning to align the technical constraints with the commercial requirements/targets – juwi is best placed to support any mine with these activities.