SA Water to install half a million solar panels
SA Water will install more than 500,000 solar panels as part of its plan to own and operate South Australia’s largest portfolio of distributed solar photovoltaic generation, as it strives for a goal of zero net electricity costs from 2020.
At a total of 159 MW, SA Water’s combined existing, in-train and committed distributed solar generation capacity will exceed that of many large-scale commercial solar projects. The integration of around 34 MWh of storage will follow, to help manage demand and neutralise the utility’s electricity and network costs.
“Our water and wastewater treatment and pumping operations provide 1.7 million people across South Australia with safe, clean drinking water every day, but are very energy intensive and make us one of the biggest energy users in the state,” said SA Water Chief Executive Roch Cheroux.
“We’ll always need to use electricity, but we can be smart in our approach to managing it.”
Cheroux said the company’s solar generation capacity will be equivalent to the power needs of 50,000 average South Australian homes. The emission reduction figures, meanwhile, will be equivalent to planting more than 220,000 trees, or removing 32,000 cars from the road, every year of operation.
“The rate of return makes this an obvious investment to help deliver low and stable prices for our customers, but it will also demonstrate the way renewable generation can be integrated at utility scale, and help the transition to a low-carbon future,” Roch said.
Four shortlisted vendors, prequalified through a public expression of interest process earlier in the year, have been invited to participate in a request for solution process, with contracts to be awarded in coming months. Over the next two years the successful vendors will work with SA Water to deploy rooftop and ground-based solar arrays at 93 sites across the state, creating an estimated 250 jobs during construction.
“We’ve set ourselves an unashamedly ambitious target, but this kind of innovative thinking can shake up traditional models and deliver sustainable savings — and we’re backing ourselves to deliver it,” Cheroux said.
“Through a range of energy initiatives like biogas and hydroelectric generation, and trading as a market participant, we’ve already cut more than $3 million a year from our electricity bills since 2013, so I know we can do this.”
The electricity SA Water generates and exports to the market will offset the cost of electricity it draws from the grid and network charges, to achieve the zero net outcome. Cheroux revealed, “We recently installed a small trial system at our Crystal Brook depot with 100 kW of panels and a 50 kWh battery, providing energy for the site and reducing our draw from the grid by 30%.”
Construction has also commenced on an additional 5 MW of solar photovoltaic arrays at metropolitan water and wastewater treatment plants, including a 1.5 MW system at the Hope Valley precinct, where the generation will facilitate the trial of a next-generation 120 kWh mechanical flywheel storage system.
Floating solar panels and a range of chemical and thermal energy storage devices are among other innovative technologies to be trialled in SA Water’s energy management program.
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