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Retired mining equipment gets second life in new solar plants

Clean Energy

Retired mining equipment second life solar plants

Czech energy company ČEZ Group is testing the central sections of conveyor belts in strip coal mines to serve as structures for carrying photovoltaic power plants.

As mining is phased out, the central sections of the mine’s conveyors, which are used to move excavated soil from one area to another, could be given a new purpose. The steel structures with their side rail could serve as supporting structures for photovoltaic power plants. Normally, these structures are bored into the ground; however, the common solution cannot be used in areas with unstable subsoil, such as spoil heaps, waste ponds and other unfirm areas. Engineers from PRODECO, a ČEZ Group company, have been developing prototypes that are able to cope with moving soil.

According to ČEZ Group, if the panels were mounted on standard structures, they would jam and crack. The team therefore had to find a solution that would be time and cost-sensitive. A solution that offered itself was to use technologies that are already available in strip mines. Once the extracted material settles, the structure tilts as a whole and the stress is therefore not transferred to the panels.

Once coal mining is phased out at Bílina Mine, thousands of these modules will be available. Several pilot structures have already been deployed on a reclaimed area near the Bílina Mine extraction area to test how photovoltaic panels cope with subsoil movement. ČEZ is working to build 6GW of renewable capacity by 2030. At the Ledvice Power Plant, a green energy laboratory was set up several years ago, in which ČEZ experts test the properties and suitability of various types of panels.

The first Czech floating photovoltaic power plant has been deployed in the upper reservoir of the Štěchovice pumped-storage power plant, which is unique for being placed on a water surface whose level fluctuates constantly.

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