You can’t run a modern mine site without power.
And with the remoteness of so many sites in Australia, saving energy and monitoring its usage is a critical factor.
Not to mention actually getting power to a site and controlling it in the first place.
Speaking to Australian Mining, Paul Cooper from Schneider Electric explained that there is a massive focus on "optimisation and getting more out of your site" and how drives are integral in saving energy, keeping everything moving on automated sites and also tracking and monitoring how it is working both on and off site.
"Energy saving is definitely something that will become more important as time continues and there is a greater push for efficiency and ‘greener’ site management, as we are seeing more of a desire to invest in drives which will aid in this, " Cooper said.
A major part of this is the demand for more specialised turnkey implementations of drives.
He explained that at low and medium voltage levels Schneider does a standard installation, but once you get to the mid tier level then "we don’t really consider the drives as a product, instead it is best to look at it more as a solution approach due to taking a specified approach.
"Putting a specialised variable speed drive (VSD) in place allows for massive power savings as compared to a damper."
It also allows for more effective mitigation of a lot of typical energy and motor problems that sites faces, such as harmonics or ensuring the constant flow of power and diagnostic data to machinery.
Even more importantly though, is the role that drives are set to play in allowing for total site automation, Cooper explained.
"There is a real push from remote operations and management levels to get a greater view right across the mining chain."
Part of this push is the integration of the variable speed drives, which allows for a greater inflow of diagnostic information.
"This gives a manager the ability to use information straight from the plant floor to make more strategic decisions."
Cooper told Australian Mining that additionally "Schneider’s EcoStruxture allows for greater management as it integrates all these information and data flows into a single control off site that is entirely web based.
"This remote diagnostics capacity aids in off site management" and importantly, EcoStruxture aids in guaranteeing compatibility between the management of power, processes, and machines.
He went on to say that with more diagnostic data from a site’s processes coming in, it also provides the information needed to carry out preventative maintenance.
Drives play an important role in this as their connectivity is piece of the puzzle that creates a higher visibility of the entire access chain in terms of data.
"They are becoming more process critical as the info they have for day today operations is high, and the costs of actually installing the drives is going down so we are seeing more and more being deployed onsite."
Integration of many different data streams into a single manageable and remotely accessed tool is a key function drives are set to play in the future.
"Drives are going to play a major part in the automation and off site management of mining operations," Cooper said.
And with the common target of total site automation in the future across the entire mining industry, drives are only set to grow in importance.