SA Water to install 100 kW floating array, announces $10 million solar, storage tender

With relatively large amounts of available land and commercial and industrial (C&I) rooftops, floating PV may be a difficult sales proposition in Australia. However, it is finding niche applications, with SA Water announcing today plans to install a trial 100 kW system on one its reservoirs.

In announcing the project today, SA Water noted that energy intensive water pumping and treatment facilities are sited alongside reservoirs, and therefore have ample offtake opportunities for the floating PV arrays.

Floating PV equipment providers point a number of advantages over systems installed on the rooftop or free field. These include cooler modules, due to the water underneath, and resulting efficiency increase, a reduction in evaporation and, potentially, algal build up. However, installation costs are significantly higher and the benefits of the evaporation and algal reduction may be marginal.

Nonetheless, use cases certainly existing for ‘floatovoltaics’ in Australia, particularly with councils and water utilities looking to reduce their electricity costs.

French company Ciel et Terre will provide floating mounting systems to SA Water’s 100 kW Happy Valley trial project. It is the second Australian project for Ciel et Terre, which supplied the 100 kW Lismore Community Floating Solar Farm in November. The Lismore floating PV plant was installed on one of the council’s sewage treatment plants and is to supply the facility with 16% of its electricity needs.

The Happy Valley project was announced alongside a broader initiative that will see solar PV be deployed, alongside some energy storage including silicon thermal storage and a 128 kW flywheel, across a number of its sites. The water utility incurs energy costs of $55 million a year for 220 GWh of electricity.

SA Water will invest up to $10 million in PV systems, including a 100 kW system at its Crystal Brook workshop that will be paired to a 50 kWh battery. It has already opened a commercial tender for the projects and aims for installation to take place in Q2 2018.

“The 2020 target will be progressed through a range of complementary initiatives that will see mature technologies embraced for immediate impact,” said SA Water’s Chief Executive Roch Cheroux. “A range of innovative emerging technologies will also be tested in partnership with local and international providers.”

Roch added that SA Water had already reduced its electricity costs by $3 million a year since 2013. It has hydroelectric and biogas generation capabilities at its facilities including wastewater treatment facilities.