Bringing bidirectional chargers to mine sites

Heron Canada, a member of MSTA Canada, offers sustainable solutions for mining’s power problems

by Jillian Clark
Heron Canada was founded with the goal of advocating for the aboriginal communities in Northern Ontario. Now they offer sustainable solutions for mining.

Heron Canada was founded with the goal of advocating for the aboriginal communities in Northern Ontario. Now they offer sustainable solutions for mining. — Photo courtesy Heron Canada

“The solution has to fit the problem,” said Erin Matthews, communications coordinator and part owner of Heron Canada and SkyPath Energy.

Heron Canada and its parent company, SkyPath Energy, specialize in sustainable solutions that cater to the renewable energy needs of the mine in question as well as its surrounding community. They create renewable microgrids at mine sites, utilizing solar, wind and geothermal.

SkyPath Energy focuses on remote clients located near aboriginal communities, staying true to the company's foundational values. Recently, SkyPath Energy has expanded its reach to Mexico with the help of new partners under the name Heron Canada. While working with renewables, battery storage was always a priority for SkyPath, which translated into this recent venture under the name Heron Canada.

The latest feat for these companies is incorporating solar-powered electric vehicles that double as moving battery components of a microgrid. Matthews’ path to co-founding Heron Canada with its current Mexican partners is a winding one. While searching for solutions for Northern Ontario’s aboriginal communities, Matthews fell into mining. She worked to raise awareness about the communities living near mine sites—their struggles and the environmental impact mines have on their land.

Now that sustainability has come to the forefront in the mining industry, Matthews and the team at Heron Canada and SkyPath Energy are eager to lead the way.

Social solutions to sustainability

Matthews’ background is in social work. “We started with helping the communities,” she said of the Northern Ontario aboriginal communities located close to mine sites. “I saw this system as being able to power houses for the First Nations, then it moved to electrification of the mines.”

Now that Heron Canada allows for a larger reach, Matthews is eager to share its renewable microgrids in the new climate of Mexico. Matthews’ background in social work has been beneficial to forming genuine and lasting relationships with the communities.

“In order to work well with the First Nations, it has to be collaborative—rrevenue sharing, real jobs, real opportunities,” she said. “We want to be part of that evolution of wealth creation with the First Nations.”

Sustainability and community well-being go together well.

“For the First Nations, sustainable energy is a good fit for them working with the mines. There’s a good alignment of taking care of the environment, and having real possibility for wealth creation,” Matthews said.

The company values are a combination of exploring renewable energy and incorporating the First Nations in wealth creation from mining.

“If we can do well at the mines, we can help the communities too.”

In order to work towards their fundamental goals to help these communities and eliminate environmentally harmful practices from mine sites, Matthews’ teams have jumped on all the mining opportunities that come their way—from working with Hitachi to create electric vehicles to choosing their Mexican partners to expand their reach.

“We have giants standing beside, which is inspiring,” Matthews said. They learn from their mining peers, and apply solutions that last. 

Following the electric trend with bidirectional chargers

Mines are evolving to become more socially conscious, so finding ways to electrify their operations has become a priority. Heron Canada is dedicating its attention to mining innovation.

“There is a trend right now to electrify mines,” Matthews said. Diesel trucks have a particularly bad reputation. “To transport diesel doesn’t make sense with the current technology. Electrical vehicles charged by the sun are the innovation in mining right now.”

Heron Canada wants to offer solutions that do everything diesel can and more. To do that, the company has moved to bidirectional chargers.

“We are working with Nissan. They have an amazing car they call V to X,” Matthews said. Vehicle to X meaning: G for Grid, B for building, H for home, and so on, so these vehicles can be part of a local grid used to move power.

“The car battery can be part of the microgrid. These chargers can be used to transport energy everywhere on a site,” Matthews said.

The microgrids minimize reliance on traditional power systems and offer long-term savings. The battery aspect makes solar more reliable.

However, “the transportable power is an add-on. For mines, having that power be transportable is a nice feature,” said Matthews.

Heron Canada’s electric vehicles are also available without the bidirectional charging feature. These bidirectional chargers, when installed in electric vehicles, can provide power to buildings. This feature helps solve problems in real time by moving power around a grid.

“The goal is to bring this mobile power to the mines,” Matthews said. Heron believes this solution is perfect for remote mine sites in both Canada and Mexico. 

“It’s a great environment to bring sustainable energy to mines,” Matthews said. “We just started out trying to help the communities up north, and now we’ve developed this mining company.”

Heron Canada and SkyPath Energy value their opportunities to use innovation in mining to solve social and sustainability problems of the industry.

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