South Australia’s largest water and sewerage services supplier, SA Water, has moved a step closer to realising its ambition of “net zero” electricity costs, after narrowing down to four its list of potential partners, in a roll-out of 159MW of distributed solar generation across its operations.
The water utility’s plans were first unveiled in January, with the announcement of an initial 6MW array, (with one of its first installations pictured above) and followed up in March with plans for some “floating” solar arrays.
SA Water said on Friday that four shortlisted vendors had pre-qualified for the job through a public Expression of Interest process, and had been invited to take part in a Request for Solution process, with contracts expected to be awarded in coming months.
The successful applicants would, over the next two years, work with SA Water to deploy rooftop and ground-based solar arrays at 93 of its sites across the state, the utility said. The integration of around 34MWh of storage would follow.
SA Water, which has targeted zero net energy by 2020 – and whose electricity and network costs reached $55 million for 220 gigawatt hours in 2016/17 – began its shift to solar last year, with a tender to install 100kW solar and 50kWh battery storage at its Crystal Brook Workshop site.
The utility, which manages more than 27,000km of water mains, including 9,266 km in the Adelaide metropolitan area, aims ultimately to install enough solar to power 50,000 average South Australian homes.
“We’ve set ourselves an unashamedly ambitious target,” said CEO Roch Cheroux, in comments on Friday. “But this kind of innovative thinking can shake up traditional models and deliver sustainable savings – and we’re backing ourselves to deliver it.
“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.”
Cheroux said that the rate of return on the solar system made it “an obvious investment” to deliver lower and more stable prices for its 1.7 million customers, and to deliver big emissions reductions in the process.
“(The solar rollout) will also demonstrate the way renewable generation can be integrated at utility scale, and help the transition to a low-carbon future,” he said.
“Our water and wastewater treatment and pumping operations … are very energy intensive and make us one of the biggest energy users in the state.
“We’ll always need to use electricity, but we can be smart in our approach to managing it.”
As we have reported on One Step, water supply and treatment companies are fast becoming reliably big installers of solar around Australia – and with their existing assets, and energy intensive operations, are a good fit for PV.
Particularly for floating solar. In March SA Water awarded a Stage 1 contract to local outfit Enerven, to design and construct a floating solar PV array, as well as ground-based solar installations, at facilities in Hope Valley, Christies Beach and Glenelg.
Elsewhere, in Queensland, Logan City Council has installed an off-grid solar and battery storage system as part of a micro-grid powered “electro-chlorinator” that will help maintain local drinking water quality 24 hours a day.
The solution – delivered by the Logan Water Infrastructure Alliance and solar installer CSR Bradford – combined a 95kWh Tesla Powerpack with 323 PV panels at the site of the relatively new 20 Megalitre Round Mountain Reservoir, which provides drinking water for residents in Flagstone, Yarrabilba, North Maclean, Spring Mountain and Woodhill.
In the South West of Victoria, Wannon Water will build an 800kW wind turbine in Portland later this year. Once commissioned, it is believed that Portland will become the first city in the state to achieve zero-net emissions from on-site local renewable power generation for both its water and sewage treatment systems.
Wannon will also install 250kW of solar PV at its Warrnambool water treatment plant later this year reducing grid demand by 40 per cent. This is in addition to the 100kW of solar PV installed at the Hamilton water treatment plant and 100kW at their Warrnambool office during the last 12 months.
In NSW, a community-funded 100kW floating solar array has been installed at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant in NSW.
And Queensland’s City of Gold Coast is proposing to install a series of floating solar PV arrays on its network of wastewater ponds – both to help power the city’s wastewater treatment plants and to cut evaporation from the ponds.