Mexico: Second Solar Process Heat Case Study on Copper Mining

Mexico Copper MineArcon-Sunmark has announced the completion of a second solar-heated copper mine project. In September 2016, the Danish company installed a 6,270 m² collector field (4.4 MWth) at La Parreña in central Mexico. A 30 September press release said that the solar field would cover 58 % of the mine’s demand for heat. The field consists of 456 components of nearly 14 m² each and a storage tank of 660 m³. The first project of its kind, a field of 39,300 m² (27.5 MWth), was completed with a joint-venture partner at the Gabriela Mistral mine in Chile in 2013. Being the world’s largest solar system for process heat application, it had produced 142,000 MWh in the first 35 months of operation, the press release said. This corresponds to a specific yield of 1,112 kWh per m² and year. 
Photo: Arcon-Sunmark
 
The investor of the La Parreña project is Mexican mining group Peñoles, one of the top producers of refined silver worldwide. Hans Grydehøj, International Sales Executive at Arcon-Sunmark, said that the project had been developed by the Danish headquarters and sold as a turnkey solution to the group.
 
In contrast to the Gabriela Mistral project in Chile, the Mexican one is not managed by the turnkey supplier. “The 6,270 m² field is too small to be operated as an Energy Service Company,” explained Grydehøj. The sales manager also confirmed that the Latin American market for solar process heat and large-scale solar applications is now developed by Pampa Elvira Solar from Chile. Pampa Elvira was founded in 2013 as a consortium of Arcon-Sunmark and Chilean Energía Llaima. 
 
“Solar energy as an energy source within the mining industry has a great future due to both economic and environmental benefits,” Grydehøj was quoted as saying in the above-mentioned press release. Peñoles’s initial investment reportedly has a payback period of four years, but the exact amount hasn’t been divulged. 
 
Asked about the case study of the Gabriela Mistral mine in Chile, the sales manager explained that the 142,000 MWh were the yield of the collector field (1,112 kWh/m²a). However, this yield corresponds almost exactly to the usable energy of the mining process, since distribution and storage tank losses are very small. During the design phase, the estimate was an annual specific yield of 1,250 kWh/m². All in all, the plant meets the targeted 80 % solar share in heat demand required for the electrolytic refining of copper in an acid bath. “If the temperature goes outside the range or the solar percentage is below limits, fines will be charged,” Ian Nelsen confirmed in an interview with solarthermalworld.org. You can read it here.
 
Websites of companies mentioned in this article:
Energía Llaima: http://www.ellaima.cl/
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