Victorian water corporations partner to purchase power from state’s biggest solar farm

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From October this year, thirteen of Victoria’s water corporations will purchase power from the 450 MW Kiamal Solar Farm under a new umbrella organisation called Zero Emissions Water. The new renewable energy initiative aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions and keep Victorian water bills down.

The deal will allow water corporations to cover between 20 to 50% of their total energy needs with solar power – slashing carbon dioxide emissions by 80,000 tonnes every year. Purchasing energy as one large organization allowed the water corporations to negotiate a competitive price, which will translate into lower operating costs and steady customer bills.

The 13 water corporations that are part of Zero Emissions Water include:

  • Barwon Water
  • Central Highlands Water
  • City West Water
  • Coliban Water
  • East Gippsland Water
  • Gippsland and Southern Rural Water
  • Lower Murray Water
  • South East Water
  • South Gippsland Water
  • Wannon Water
  • Westernport Water
  • Western Water
  • Yarra Valley Water

The Victorian water corps are paving the way for other water utilities and industries with a first-of-its-kind deal in Australia.

“It’s great to see our state’s water corporations working together on this innovative new model, which will not only help protect our environment into the future but also keep water bills affordable for Victorians,” said Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville. “We’ve seen the effects of climate change on our water storage levels, which is why it’s more important than ever to create solutions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The commitment aligns with the Victorian Labor Government’s goal of achieving a 42% reduction in the water sector’s emissions by 2025 and net-zero emissions by 2050. According to the government, Melbourne’s water corporations are the most active ones with four metropolitan utilities working to achieve net-zero 20 years ahead of schedule, by 2030.

Solar project background

Victoria’s largest solar PV plant, the 450 MW Kiamal Solar Farm, is being developed by French renewables giant, Total Eren. Stage one of Kiamal is currently under construction and will come in at 256 MW, with stage two scheduled to reach 193 MW. In October, the developer said it was exploring commercial options for the approved 380 MWh of energy storage.

Before the latest announcement from the Victorian water corporations, around 75% of the project’s eventual output was covered by PPAs. These include electricity retailers Alinta, Flow Power, and Snowy Hydro, as well as Mars Australia, which signed a 20-year PPA with the $90 million Kiamal Solar Farm as part of its plan to go 100% solar by 2020

The first stage of the project will be made up of over 720,000 PV panels mounted on single-axis trackers covering over 500 hectares. The construction is led by Biosar Australia, a unit of Greek infrastructure group Aktor S.A., and Canadian Solar, Chinese solar PV technology supplier.

In order to avoid significant curtailment, Total Eren had to add a costly synchronous condenser to the project as a precondition to win a grid connection from the Australian Energy Market Operator. Due to a number of challenges it has faced, the two-stage project is behind schedule, but is expected to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.