Disused Mining Equipment Could Gain New Life in Solar Installations

An energy company based in the Czech Republic is granting disused mining equipment a second life in new solar installations. ČEZ Group, a conglomerate of nearly 100 companies, has begun testing whether parts removed from strip coal mine conveyor belts could support the construction of photovoltaic solar power plants.

Central sections extracted from old conveyor belts in coal mines are being recycled into structures to carry the solar-energy panels. These central sections typically transport excavated soil from one area to another, a relatively mundane but critical activity in the coal-mining pipeline. Although the mines they served are now discounted, the steel structures as well as the side rail now provide support structures for solar plants, giving them a new life within the renewables ecosystem.

Engineers from ČEZ Group subsidiary PRODECO  are working to develop prototype structures that can deal with soil movement as the conveyor-belt, steel-mining structures are usually dug into the ground. This means they can’t be deployed in areas such as waste ponds and spoil beals, which have unstable subsoil and general unfirm surfaces.

A statement released by Jan Kalina, a member of the board of directors and head of the Renewable and Conventional Energy Division at ČEZ Group, notes that the energy company mostly installs its solar-energy plants on “infertile areas,” brownfields and locations with a past of industrial mining. Kalina said that these regions can help generate renewable energy while they are rejuvenated.

Unfortunately, such areas often have loosely deposited soil heaps that may take decades to gradually settle and stabilize, necessitating prototype structures that can withstand unstable soil. Consequently, the statement noted that the ČEZ Group had to adapt the technology it uses to build solar-energy plants with the goal of reducing needless carbon emissions and maintaining sustainable operations.

ČEZ Group says that mounting photovoltaic panels on standard structures could make the panels “jam and crack,” and its research team had to find a timely and cost-sensitive solution. Recycling the structures used in strip mines is a quick solution that offers “great advantages,” said PRODECO CEO and chair of the board of directors Luboš Straka.

Since they were originally made for heavy-duty operations, these structures are robust and have side rails that make them suitable for surfaces with unstable or unfirm soil. Furthermore, they are noninvasive because they simply stand on the soil, reducing the overall environmental impact of solar farms. Furthermore, the structures tilt as needed when the extracted material settles, protecting the solar panels mounted on top. ČEZ Group has deployed several pilot structures at the Bilina Mine, and thousands of models will be up for grabs once Bilina Mine completely phases out coal mining.

As the transition to green energy gains momentum, entities such as Reflex Advanced Materials Corp. (CSE: RFLX) (OTCQB: RFLXF) will be crucial in ensuring that makers of solar panels and other needed equipment have the critical metals they need to supply the growing demand for these energies.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Reflex Advanced Materials Corp. (CSE: RFLX) (OTCQB: RFLXF) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/RFLXF

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