South Australian water and sewerage utility SA Water is hoping to cut its electricity bill from an eye-watering total of $55 million in 2016/17 to a net total of $0 in 2020, after announcing plans to install up to 6MW of solar PV across a number of its large metropolitan sites.
Having ramped up its renewables rollout with a tender for a solar and battery storage system in July of last year, SA Water last month revealed plans to invest another $10 million on an initial 6MW of both rooftop and ground-mounted PV across its operations, with the first installations expected to begin in the first half of this year.*
As a result of the July tender, a $500,000 pilot 100kW solar 50kWh battery storage system is currently being installed at SA Water’s Crystal Brook workshop (pictured above).
As we reported here last year, the utility – which serves 1.6 million people across South Australia and is one of the state’s largest electricity users – is one of many water companies around Australia turning to renewable energy to cut costs in what is a notoriously energy-intensive industry.
In the regional Victorian city of Portland, Wannon Water is building an 800kW wind turbine that it will use to power its water and sewerage treatment plant.
Also in regional Victoria, North East Water is in the process of installing 43kW of solar panels and 40kW of battery storage at its Yakandandah facility.
In Queensland, the 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.
The SA Water project, however, is the most ambitious so far, with the ultimate goal of cutting power bills to zero.
“We’ve already been reducing our electricity costs by more than $3 million a year since 2013, so we know that with a concerted push, our goal is ambitious, but within reach,” said SA Water CEO Roch Cheroux.
“By increasing our renewable energy generation and storage, driving energy efficiencies and making smart decisions around our electricity usage and procurement, we aim to reduce our net electricity costs from $55 million in 2016/17 to $0 in 2020,” he told One Step Off The Grid in emailed comments.
Cheroux said the solar and battery storage would be used alongside a range of complementary initiatives, implemented in a staged approach to help reach the company’s goal. Some of these would involve generating, storing and selling more renewable energy, others would involve cutting power usage or strategically managing the timing of peak demand.
“There will still be times when we draw electricity from the grid, but we’ll offset those costs by storing and selling energy we produce at other times, to bring our net external electricity expenses down to $0,” he said.
“A range of innovative emerging technologies will also be tested in partnership with local and international providers.”
SA Water said that further pilot projects being funded by technology partners and moving into testing phases in 2018 included floating solar – an increasingly popular option for water treatment plants and reservoirs; “silicon thermal storage” to complement existing biogas generation (pictured above); and flywheel mechanical battery storage systems.
Further capital investment is expected to be guided by the outcomes of the pilot projects, and considered on a case by case basis, the company said.
“Every step we make towards it will deliver savings for our business, and therefore our customers,” Cheroux said.
Already, the company generates power from biogas – a by-product of the sewage treatment process – and through hydroelectric systems, by harnessing the force of moving water within the network.
*This article has been amended to reflect that the solar installations will be both rooftop and ground mounted, and that construction of the project will begin in the first half of 2018, and not 2019, as originally stated.