Use of Tailing Ponds as Solar Photovoltaic Farms

Author : Moe Momayez, Srikant Annavarapu, Alex Cronin, Terril Wilson

Fine-grinding of ores for the liberation of metal- or other valuable concentrates most often results in acreage dedicated to tailings impoundments. A determination of the post-mining land use of such acreage is then required. Tailings impoundments can be suitably utilized as sites for installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. The electrical energy produced can be used initially for mining and concentrating operations, and subsequently for the utility grid after mine closure is complete. Since the extraction, processing and transport of minerals is energy-intensive, most mines already have a substantial electrical transmission-line infrastructure. This eliminates one of the major costs associated with PV energy farms. In this paper, we analyze the long-term economic benefit (i.e. payback period) of PV installation and energy production at mine sites. We also discuss integrating PV systems with erosion control and revegetation measures.

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