Victorian utility Barwon Water could be responsible for the delivery of one of the state’s first megawatt-scale solar PV farms, after the contract for a 1MW project’s design and construction was last week awarded to Beon Energy Solutions.
In a statement issued last Thursday, Barwon Water said the 2,880 panel project slated for development at its Black Rock environmental precinct was now expected to be completed by December.
This would indeed make it one of Victoria’s largest single solar PV farms – *as a reader has pointed out below, Diamond Energy operates a Beletric-built 3.2MW PV plant in Mildura – but that should not be the case for long, with a multi-megawatt project said to be in the pipeline and up to 75MW due to be constructed in the northwest of the state, through the Andrews government tender.
For Barwon Water, the Black Rock solar array will feed energy directly to the adjoining water reclamation plant, supplying 13 per cent of the facility’s power needs and saving the company more than $130,000 a year on operating costs.
But it is not the only water company that is investing in renewables. The use of mostly solar – and even battery storage – by energy hungry water plant operators is becoming more and more common in Australia.
For a couple of years now, Sydney Water’s Bondi Treatment Plant has been powered by a cogeneration system that supplies around 13 per cent more energy than plant uses.
And in the NSW Riverina Shire of Corowa, the council has installed 100kW ground-mounted systems at both the Corowa and Mulwala Water Filtration Plants, and a 50kW ground-mounted system at the Mulwala Sewerage Treatment Plant.
In Victoria, Wannon Water should soon be powering the water and sewerage treatment plant that services the regional city of Portland entirely by wind energy, with the construction of an 800kW wind turbine set for completion mid-2017.
And just a few days ago, another Victorian utility, North East Water, launched a tender to install solar and battery storage at its water treatment plant in the regional town of Yackandandah.
For Barwon Water, the 1MW solar plant at Black Rock is part of its broader plan to shift to 100 per cent renewables, by 2025.
According to Barwon Water chair, Jo Plummer, this is not just to cut carbon emissions, but because it is the best way forward, economically, for the company.
“With a payback period of 11 years, we see the project as a solid investment for the future, both in terms of an ongoing reduction in operating costs and increased environmental benefits,” she said.
Barwon Water also owns a wind turbine – although a fairly old one. It was bought by Barwon Water in 2003, having been originally installed in 1987 as a demonstration unit by the former state-owned power company SEC and a former iteration of Sustainability Victoria.
“This is an organisation leading the way in the water industry with their application of renewable energy solutions to support their operations,” said len Thomson, General Manager of Beon Energy Solutions.
“The Black Rock project is a real and tangible demonstration of their well thought out strategy to achieve their 100 per cent renewables target, and at Beon we’re grateful for the opportunity to play such an important part in helping them achieve it.”
*This article has been amended to reflect that the Barwon Water project would not be the state’s first megawatt-scale solar PV project.