WINDHOEK – B2Gold Namibia celebrated the opening of the B2Gold Otjikoto Solar Farm on May 29. The event was officiated by the Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo.
In 2017, B2Gold broke ground on the construction of a 7-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant at its Otjikoto mine. In his keynote address, Alweendo stated that the Otjikoto Solar Farm is yet another significant contribution in the private sector’s drive for sustainable energy solutions. “This solar plant will deliver positive economic, environmental and social impacts that is likely to outlive the life of the mine. I am also informed that this solar plant will be one of the largest installations of its kind in Namibia. It will serve as a sustainable power solution as B2Gold works to improve economic returns, reduce impacts on the environment, and could 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 percent of its energy requirements from 24 MW of installed generation capacity at the Otjikoto power plant, comprising of heavy fuel oil (HFO) diesel generators. With a consistent demand of 12.5 MW 24 hours per day, the plant consumed 21.7 million litres of HFO during 2017, costing approximately US$10.5 million.
In his presentation to showcase the new plant, John Roos (Manager Projects & Compliance, B2Gold Namibia) outlined the reasoning for the facility’s development, including B2Gold’s commitment to environmental stewardship, its dependence on a steady supply of HFO, its exposure to increasing oil prices, and the Company’s focus to remain a low-cost producer.
“Driven by these challenges, the B2Gold project team embarked upon a detailed financial feasibility study early in 2016 to prove the financial viability of adding a 7 MW solar plant to Otjikoto’s energy portfolio. Based on the results of this study, the project was approved in October 2016 with an estimated project cost of US$8.5 million.”
The feasibility studies indicate an expected savings of 20 percent of HFO consumption through the reduction of load to the power plant as well as savings on maintenance costs on the power plant’s HFO engines. B2Gold expects it will reduce energy costs by 14 percent in 2018. The plant will allow the company to significantly reduce fuel consumption and GHG emissions from the site’s current 24 MW HFO power plant.
As a novel initiative, B2Gold is considering the utilisation of the solar plant as an income-generating asset after the mine closes due to depletion of its reserves. Funds generated by this asset could be used to support ongoing Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) activities in the region long after the mine has shut down.
In his address, Minister Alweendo outlined other B2Gold accomplishments in the sphere of sustainability and CSR, including the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Total Namibia, with Total committing two cents of every litre of HFO sold to B2Gold Namibia, to the Namibian Chamber of Environment.