Hybrid energy plant constructed, commissioned

2nd February 2024

Hybrid energy plant constructed, commissioned

UNINTERRUPTED SUPPLY The hybrid plant will be capable of supplying up to 100% of the Molo processing plant’s power requirements

Battery materials development company NextSource Materials has completed commissioning and achieved full operationality of its solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage hybrid power plant, at its Molo graphite mine, in the Toliara province of southern Madagascar.

The solar hybrid plant is owned and operated by renewable projects investment company CrossBoundary Energy (CBE) under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

The hybrid plant comprises a 2.69 MW solar PV array, combined with a 1.37 MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) and a 3.1 MW thermal diesel generator plant.

The hybrid plant will generate 4 GWh of clean power, with the current PV array designed with additional capacity such that no expansion of the PV array will be required for Molo production capacity increases of up to 32 000 t/y.

The PV array, incorporating 4 902 PV panels and covering an area of 12 663 m2, has been fully integrated with the BESS to ensure excess power is stored for use during times when additional power is required.

Together with load balancing provided by the BESS, the hybrid plant will be capable of supplying up to 100% of the Molo processing plant’s power requirements during peak daylight hours, with the thermal facility supplying all baseload and off-peak power requirements. This will ensure uninterrupted power supply to the mine, NextSource reports.

The hybrid plant has a dedicated connection to the mine camp and all auxiliary buildings ensuring improved use of renewable energy generated by the solar PV plant.

Further, the hybrid plant will be able to provide up to 35% of Molo’s complete system power needs from renewable energy, significantly reducing the mine’s all-inclusive sustaining costs, as well as cutting carbon emissions by 2 275 t/y.

NextSource and CBE are committed to enhancing the solar component and increasing the amount of renewable energy available to the mine, which could include expansion of the solar farm or installation of wind turbines.

In support of this, CBE has installed a wind measuring device to evaluate the wind resource at the site and is studying the feasibility of adding wind generation in the short term.

As part of any potential future expansion of the Molo mine, NextSource has set a goal of increasing the percentage of power it generates by renewable resources to at least 50%.

First Shipment
In October 2023, NextSource made its first bulk container shipment of SuperFlake graphite from the company’s Molo mine to its downstream technical partner’s battery anode facility (BAF) to be processed into spheronised, purified graphite (SPG) that will then be further processed into coated SPG as part of large scale, multi-step verification tests being conducted by automotive electric vehicle supply chains in South Korea and Japan.

The company expected to receive its first series of verification test results, starting in December 2023.

NextSource is intent on becoming a vertically integrated global supplier of graphite anode material with plans to construct, in stages, multiple BAFs capable of producing coated SPG at commercial scale in key jurisdictions.

“Completing our first bulk shipment is a significant accomplishment and the result of the hard work and dedication of our operations team,” says NextSource president and CEO Craig Scherba.

He elaborates that as NextSource progresses through the optimisation phase of the commissioning process and moves towards reaching the nameplate production capacity for Phase 1 of Molo mine operations, the company is well positioned to play a critical role in the global, sustainable lithium-ion battery supply chain.

This is particularly important as the sustainable lithium-ion battery industry is anticipated to experience exponential growth over the next few decades, he says.