Mining operation to use solar-plus-storage project to offset 50% of energy usage


The mining of rare earth metals and minerals is an energy intensive process that has historically relied on fossil fuel-derived power generation resources to support round-the-clock industrial processes.

Imerys, a French multinational mining company that traces its roots back to the Rothschild family from 1880, has partnered with TotalEnergies to install a solar-plus-storage facility to offset 50% of the mine’s energy usage. The mine extracts diatomite, a sedimentary rock that the company has been extracting at the site since 1890.

Over the next three years, Paris-based Imerys said it will install a 15 MW ground-mounted solar system with a 7.5 MWh battery energy storage system to provide enough clean power to sustain much its Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, Calif. mining operations into the night. The mining company will hold a 25-year power purchase and storage services agreement (PPSSA) with TotalEnergies under the agreement.

The project developer’s U.S. distributed generation team engaged with Imerys to evaluate which of the company’s U.S. industrial mining facilities offered the greatest viability for solar. Under the PPSSA agreement, TotalEnergies will finance, install and operate the Lompoc facility’s distributed energy system.

The Imersys energy project is part of the public company’s environmental, social and governance plan aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in which the global industrials firm has committed to lowered its carbon emissions by 42% by 2030 with 2021 serving as its baseline year.

“This project highlights Imerys’ approach to reducing COemissions and enabling us to produce clean, smart energy across our plants in the Americas,” said Jim Murberger, senior vice president and general manager of Imerys’ Americas business.

“We remain committed to helping Imerys achieve its sustainability goals with projects around the world, now with a focus on their U.S. operations,” said Eric Potts, managing director of TotalEnergies’ U.S. distributed generation group.

“For the transformation of industrial minerals, this requires ensuring greater energy efficiency through new technologies and processes as well as the integration of renewable energy sources among other levers to combat climate change,” Imerys said in its 2022 Sustainability Report.

The company highlighted other projects installed across its global mining operations. In June 2016, Athos Solar completed construction of the Gilleys Dam solar project, a 5 MW ground-mounted facility located near St. Austell in Cornwall County, England. Energy produced from the solar array powers an Imerys clay producing operation. The Cornwall County, UK site also incorporated the repurposing of several hectares of land previously used as a waste disposal site.

In July 2022,  the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Energy Demonstration Office issued a Request for Information to support the development of solar projects among other clean energy projects at 17,750 current and former mines. The goal was to choose a selection of projects that will chart a course to guide future projects, as they seek to navigate the long and complex federal, state, and local rules that regulate siting and grid interconnection.  The government program evaluated the potential for 89 GW of new installations at current and former mining sites.

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