SA Water’s journey to “net zero” electricity costs by 2020 is set to get underway, after it was announced that local outfit Enerven had been chosen to roll-out a planned 154MW of solar PV and 34MWh of energy storage across more than 70 of the utility’s sites.
SA Water said on Wednesday that the Adelaide-based Enerven – a wholly-owned subsidiary of SA Power Networks – was expected to get to work on the first lot of PV projects in the first half of this year, after winning the tender for the massive contract.
The $300 million plan to invest in more than 500,000 solar panels, as well as battery storage, was first unveiled just over a year ago, in January 2018, and then put to tender the following April.
It will take the utility’s total solar generation capacity to around 160MW, adding to the 6MW of solar currently being installed across SA Water’s Glenelg, Hope Valley and Christies Beach facilities, which are due to connect to the NEM in coming months.
SA Water CEO Roch Cheroux said neutralising large operating costs like electricity – which had hit $62 million in 2017-18 – would in turn cut costs for its 1.7 million customers.
Already the utility – which manages more than 27,000km of water mains, including 9,266 km in the Adelaide metropolitan area – claims to have cut more than $3 million a year from its power bills since 2013, through initiatives including biogas and hydroelectric generation, and trading as a market participant.
“This is an important milestone for our energy management activities, and boots getting ready to hit the ground are a signal that we’ll soon start seeing benefit realisation, as the new sites are progressively energised,” Cheroux said.
“Our bigger picture is a zero cost energy future, where we regain control over one of our single largest operational expenses. There’s no doubt our ambitious goal will be a stretch, but we won’t lose sight of it.”
South Australia’s minister for environment and water, David Speirs, said the project was expected to support around 250 jobs during construction, and include Aboriginal business engagement, apprentice training and opportunity for the state’s supply chain.
“The scale and complexity of this landmark program will deliver opportunities for local businesses across a range of sectors, drawing on South Australian excellence in everything from civil works through to security services, engineering and project management, to high-tech system automation,” Speirs said.
“SA Water staff conceived and shaped this initiative – that’s South Australians leading the way with the smarts and skills to strategically integrate renewable energy and storage within the longest water network in the country.”
In its own statement, Enerven said it was currently completing the first phase of the project, installing just over 4MW of solar at three of SA Water’s largest facilities – including the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant and Morgan Water Treatment Plant.
The company said its experience on projects including the Lincoln Gap Wind Farm and Bungala Solar Farm had put it in a strong position to win the contract to deliver a large number of projects in a tight timeframe.
“From the design and the determination of the technical requirements, to the procurement of equipment and project construction, we have been able to deliver SA Water a one-stop solution for this project,” Enerven general manager Richard Amato said.
“We’re relishing the opportunity to be part of a world class program like this, helping a forward-thinking company like SA Water harness renewable technology to deliver benefits for its customers and the environment.
“Growing and developing the local industry as we deliver projects is important to us because it drives lower costs and higher productivity, sustainable outcomes, and fosters innovation based on local knowledge,” Amato said.
Also playing a key role in SA Water’s renewables roll-out will be local Tonsley-based sub-contractor SAGE Automation, which will deliver the control and monitoring systems for the project.
“Our 350-strong team work on projects across the world and are excited about bringing their knowledge back to bear on an iconic project, right here in our backyard,” said SAGE CEO Adrian Fahey.
“By including sophisticated automation with their new generation infrastructure, SA Water is creating assets that will truly integrate with their wider water and wastewater operations to deliver a fundamental change to their operations.”
SA Water said the installation of solar PV would take priority over the energy storage, the installation of which would follow after the most suitable technology combinations had been determined.