Local start-up strikes gold in Ghana and Mali: An interview with the MD

December 6th, 2018, Published in Articles: Energize

Ignite Energy, a local, two-year old, power generations solutions company, has been selected to set up a 40 MW hybrid solar, battery and heavy fuel oil plant at Resolute Mining’s Syama Gold Mine in Mali. This is in addition to a 20 MW grid-tied solar PV project that the company is involved in at a gold mine in Ghana.

Grant Berndsen

Energize spoke to Grant Berndsen, Ignite Energy’s managing director and asked him about the new company and how, as a new company, it has managed to win these projects.

According to Berndsen, the difference between Ignite Energy’s offering and what other large power generation companies offer, is flexibility. Ignite Energy tailors its offering to the specific application, rather than offering only the products the company usually sells or hires.

In this way, the application dictates the technology to be used, he said. Cost, and the availability of primary energy are key deciders. Mines, in particular, are generally not interested in the technology: they simply want a reliable source of electrical energy at the lowest possible cost. Electricity from emergency-type plant, while being highly reliable, is usually very expensive, he said.

The most cost-effective solutions are often a combination of technologies: solar PV, battery storage and an internal combustion engine-based genset. This type of solution is often not only cheaper to own and operate, he said, but more sustainable in terms of its impact on the local environmental.

The company, which has extensive experience in providing power to remote locations in Africa, saw the growing need for immediate, cost-effective power solutions. This is particularly true for mines, which are under increasing pressure to cut capital expenditure. Power is a significant overhead and finding better, more affordable ways to cover this expense is increasingly in demand, he said.

The solution designed for the Syama Gold Mine comprises a 40 to 50 MW heavy fuel oil (HFO) powered generation plant with two levels of redundancy: the existing diesel-powered gensets and 8 MWh of on-site battery-based energy storage. The solution also includes a 33 MW solar PV array which will keep the battery topped up while supplying some of the energy required by the mine.

Berndsen said that the HFO generators chosen for this project will use less fuel than the existing diesel plant per MW of generation. Further, heavy fuel oil is cheaper than diesel. Operational savings are extended further when one considers that the energy from the solar PV panels will reduce load on the generating plant, and the primary energy for the solar PV equipment is, of course, free and produces no emissions into the atmosphere.

Ignite Energy will be responsible for the delivery of power to the mine for the period of the power production agreement (PPA), subject to the mine supplying sufficient quantities of the correct grade of HFO for the generator. The company will, according to Berndsen, hold a meaningful share of equity in the project, during which time it will sell the power to the mine.

Construction of the Syama Gold Mine project is set to start in about June or July 2019, with a completion date set for late January 2021, he said.

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