Saturday, December 19, 2009

Distributed Hydropower for Resource Exploration

Hydrovolts turbines provide distributed generation from hydropower, a great benefit to those who live in remote areas where no grid exists to deliver centrally produced electricity. These people need a distributed, i.e. locally produced and used, energy generation technology which works when and where they need it, and is portable, rugged, and cost-effective.

Another example of an off-grid need for electricity is remote resource exploration, such as for mining. Almost all mining operations use quite a bit of water; feasibility of a particular mine site is dependent in part on the availability of a reliable water supply, generally from a natural watercourse such as a river. Consequently, such sites are well-suited for power generation using a Hydrovolts turbine.

The existing solution in almost all cases is a diesel generator. It has the advantage of providing steady power when and where needed, but has several serious drawbacks, including smell and noise, but most especially cost. In most remote locations the fuel must be brought in by truck, sometimes on very bad roads that can take days to navigate. In extreme cases, fuel must be flown in by helicopter. As a result, the effective cost of the generated electricity can be $1.00/kWh and up, compared to the average US retail price of $0.11/kWh, and less than $0.02/kWh from a Hydrovolts turbine.

Many companies engaged in resource exploration, including mining companies, are acutely sensitive to the needs and values of the communities in which they operate. Commonly such companies will build infrastructure (sometimes as part of their operations) which they will leave to community ownership upon project completion. According to one potential Hydrovolts customer, such infrastructure helps satisfy the "social license" companies crave to smooth the acceptance of their operations by local populations. In creating a "prideful and positive experience" they gain support of communities, reduce conflict and lower costs. Mining companies seek a social license when starting a new project or entering a new community not only because it is a best practice in sustainability, but because it increases the prospects for a successful project:
In 2003 Pierre Lassonde drew attention to the observation that “Without local community support, your project is going nowhere.” He described social license as “…the acceptance and belief by society, and specifically our local communities, in the value creation of our activities, such as we are allowed to access and extract mineral resources. … You don’t get your social licence by going to a government ministry and making an application or simply paying a fee. … It requires far more than money to truly become part of the communities in which you operate” (Lassonde 2003). A primary objective of gaining a Social License is to minimize project risk.
Hydrovolts turbines are an excellent choice for mining companies in the exploration phase of projects, as they are easily and rapidly deployed at modest cost. Hydrovolts turbines in larger numbers are also appropriate to the production phase, where they can save in overall capital costs as well as reduce costs during operation. Companies leaving the turbines behind for community would cement the social license and generate the goodwill and positive reputation that could aid in future projects. Creative partnering may also allow sharing the capital cost with NGOs or even the community itself.

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