Can Solar and Mining be Best Of Frenemies?

A happy compromise or supping with the devil?

A happy compromise or supping with the devil?

Whenever we hear of the future of the battle for the future of Australian energy, the picture we get in our press and from Canberra and the state capitals is one of conflict. One of subsidies for renewables such as solar power systems — whether utility scale solar or domestic PV — versus continued monetary support for fossil fuel-powered industries such as mining.

But is there a middle path readers? One that sees a future for sectors such as mining to use solar power systems to help offset rising energy costs? An absorbing article in Australian Mining this week appears to point in this direction.

The article explores the possibility that the use of solar power systems to power mines may well be an option. With the cost of diesel soaring and mining companies becoming sensitive to criticism of their massive carbon footprint, solar power systems may just provide the answer on both counts.

Australian Mining spoke to solar manufacturer First Solar’s vice president Jack Curtis. Mr Curtis said the challenge was to convince companies of how solar power systems can be integrated successfully with existing power generation.

“What the gap has been to date is helping mining companies understand how solar PV can integrate with existing power generation sources, which would provide an economic value without disrupting the continual supply of power to the mine,” Curtis said.

Now here begins the real debate amongst renewable energy supporters folks. Those who believe that all forms of fossil fuel-driven activity should be phased out and those who think there will always be the need for mining. The second group may consider there should be room for some partnership between solar power systems and these pollution-troubled sectors.

Perhaps there is a glimpse of a win-win solution here? A win for the environment with mining companies selecting solar power systems — and other renewable energy — to assist their current power generation. A win for the mining companies who will save money as solar power systems charge down the cost curve.

However there’s also another win for mining companies readers. They’ll be able to tailor their massive advertising campaigns towards convincing punters (we taxpayers folks) of their commitment to solar power systems and renewable energy. This would make a change from multi million campaigns designed to swing public opinion behind the spurious claims that mining companies are broke and can’t afford to pay their tax.

Bit harsh readers? Perhaps. Maybe mining companies are committed to solar power systems purely for environmental reasons. Maybe there are progressive thinking mining CEOs who understand that solar power (and renewable energy) is the future of energy in Australia. We’d love to hear your views either here or over at our Facebook Page.



  1. Yes Minister says

    There will probably always be conflict as long as governments profiteer from power generation, either directly as in the case of the Queensland billion per annum rip-off from Energex / Ergon, or indirectly by flogging off the retail business to political cronies & receiving who knows what ‘benefits’. Electricity should rightfully be considered an essential service and as such, should be provided by state governments or even the federal government on a non-profit basis. If we could ever get back to truly ‘honorable’ politicians that would be achievable, however honor is something totally incomprehensible to ALP / LNP style parties.

  2. Well, we could go crazy big, super grid big . . . in the Pilbara we have massive mining and massive insolation. Put in some massive combined PV and solar thermal plants to power these mines, then when the resource is gone, install HVDC transmission to the north to the teeming millions of Indonesians across the water and sell them TWh of electricity (instead of mt of ore to China and Japan, currently).

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