More solar drinking water for South Australians as PV powers pipeline

A 358km pipeline that delivers drinking water to tens of thousands of regional South Australian customers is now being powered by the sun, after a utility-scale solar farm was this week switched on and connected to the grid.

SA Water said on Thursday that the solar plant, located at the Morgan to Whyalla Pipeline’s third pump station in Geranium Plains, around 15km east of Robertstown, was being powered by the newly commissioned array, made up of 19,000 solar panels. (One Step emailed SA Water to ask the capacity of the project, but had not heard back in time for publication.)

The solar farm, which is capable of generating 14,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy a year, was also participating in the National Electricity Market, with any excess solar electricity generated at the site able to be sold to the spot market.

“Given the Morgan to Whyalla Pipeline is responsible for delivering clean, safe drinking water to … customers from the Riverland, Barossa, Mid North and Upper Spencer Gulf regions, the energy requirements to pump such volumes of water are significant,” said SA Water senior manager of zero cost energy future, Nicola Murphy.

“With this large solar array now energised and capturing the sun’s rays, we are harnessing green energy to reduce our pumping expenses without any impact to the pump station’s overall performance.

“The direct current (DC) voltage captured by the panels is converted into high-voltage alternating current (AC) energy, where it travels underground to a connection point for use at the pump station.

“We can also make use of any excess electricity generated at the site by selling to the national spot market to the national grid.”

Murphy says the solar farm is one of four being installed along the same pipeline, with a further 15,000 solar panels at the fourth pump station outside Robertstown expected to be energised by mid-2021.

SA Water’s extensive water and wastewater operations make it one of South Australia’s largest electricity consumers, with the utility’s 2019-20 electricity costs reaching approximately $86 million.

The pipeline projects are part of a major shift to renewables by SA Water, which ranks as one of South Australia’s largest electricity consumers, with 2019-20 electricity costs reaching the ballpark of $86 million.

As part of this shift, the state government-owned utility rounded out 2020 by commencing works on what it claims is the“world’s largest” re-deployable solar array – a 12.8MW pre-fab PV system at the Happy Valley Reservoir on the outskirts of Adelaide.

“Increasing our renewable energy generation will help sustainably reduce operating expenses and ensure we can keep prices low and stable for our customers across the state,” Murphy said in a statement this week.

Elsewhere, SA Water has installed around 160,000 solar panels at sites like the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Adelaide Desalination Plant, with the remaining panels due to be installed over the coming months.

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