Victorian regional utility Barwon Water has switched on its second major solar project for the year – a 250kW PV array built next to a storage facility in the Surf Coast town of Torquay, at the site of a new sustainable housing development.
Barwon Water said on Tuesday that the solar system would produce 370,000kWh of energy a year, to help the energy intensive business power its local Torquay operations, and send any excess energy to the grid.
As well as reducing Barwon Water’s energy costs, the array – which claims to be the biggest yet for the Great Ocean Road Town – will also help the utility to meet its target of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025.
The adjacent housing development, Salt Torquay – which is being built on a formed Barwon Water basin site – aims to be one of Australia’s most sustainable, with houses featuring rooftop solar, battery storage, electric car charging points and smart water meters.
The ground-mounted solar array has also been designed to allow a micro-grid that could one day integrate solar resources across the Salt Torquay estate and neighbouring properties.
The Salt Torquay PV system is one six similarly sized projects Barwon Water is rolling out across other sites in the region, and follows up on the May completion of the company’s magnum opus – its 1MW Black Rock solar farm.
That project, built by Beon Energy Solutions, supplies Barwon Water’s Black Rock Water Reclamation Plant, which treats the majority of the Geelong region’s sewage, processing approximately 50 million litres of blackwater each day.
The Black Rock plant, which will eventually be expanded to more than 2MW, currently supplied around 13 per cent of the facility’s energy demand, and is expected to save the company more than $185,000 a year on operating costs.
“Barwon Water’s focus on renewable energy not only limits our impact on the environment, but also helps us keep our costs downs and our customers’ bills low,” said Barwon Water managing director Tracey Slatter in comments on Tuesday.
“The solar array will support Salt Torquay as a shining example of innovative sustainable design, and low-footprint living.
“This is a flagship project in our program to add value to our unused assets so that we can pass on the financial benefit to customers,” Slatter said.
“Profits generated from sales at Salt Torquay will not only cover the cost of the project, but also produce additional revenue that would otherwise need to be generated through water bills, helping to keep our customers’ bills down.”
Barwon Water is just the latest of Australia’s water utilities to make the shift to solar and other renewable energy technologies, although arguably it is a pioneer – it still operates a wind turbine at Breamlea which was originally installed way back in 1987.
In Victoria alone, state government-owned Melbourne Water announced plans to build two major “behind the meter” solar arrays to power two water treatment plants, as part of its own plans to reach net zero emissions by 2030.
And in the south-east of the state, Wannon Water has been building its own 800kW wind turbine, that will power 100 per cent of its Portland water and sewage treatment facilities.
It also has a 100kW solar PV array on top of a tank at its water treatment plant at Hamilton, and another 100kW of PV installed at the company’s Warrnambool office, with a 250kW solar array also planned for that city’s water treatment plant, to cut its grid demand by 40 per cent.