SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future plan to generate about 70% of the electricity it needs to treat water and pump it around South Australia continues to expand, with one of the state’s major water pipelines now powered by more than 34,000 solar panels.
The 50-kilometre-long Murray Bridge to Onkaparinga Pipeline delivers water from the River Murray to the Mount Bold Reservoir and the Kanmantoo and Balhannah water treatment plants in the Adelaide Hills.
SA Water has installed 34,272 solar panels at the pipeline’s second pump station in Rocky Gully, about 80km south-east of Adelaide. The panels will collectively generate an estimated 25.6 GWh of solar electricity each year to power pumping operations.
SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future senior manager Nicola Murphy said the panels will be able to generate the equivalent energy capacity to power more than 4,000 average South Australian households and the site will achieve a carbon emissions reduction of about 11,000 tonnes each year.
“Now connected to our assets, these solar panels will significantly help to sustainably reduce our operating electricity costs and reliance on the national electricity grid, without compromising on the performance this vital pipeline plays in delivering trusted water for our customers,” she said.
“When you consider our annual electricity expenses reached more than $80 million in recent years, being able to harness large-scale renewable energy assets such as this will help to make a difference in reducing these significant costs over the coming years.”
The installation is part SA Water’s ongoing investment in renewable energy with the utility committing $300 million for solar PV and energy storage projects at its sites across the state.
One of the largest renewable energy projects in the Australian water industry, SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future initiative has involved the installation of more than 360,000 solar panels at 33 of the utility’s pipelines, pump stations and other assets.
Once progressively energised and connected to the national grid, these sites will generate 242 GWh of clean, green solar energy per annum, combined with 34 MWh of battery storage, Murphy said.
“Combined, these solar arrays will have the capacity to generate around 70% of our annual electricity needs in an average weather and water consumption year,” she said.
“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.”
SA Water is one of South Australia’s single largest electricity users, with its drinking water and wastewater pumping and treatment operations across the state costing approximately $86 million in 2020-21.
Its Zero Cost Energy Future initiative has earned accolades from the industry with the program collecting the Project Innovation Award at this year’s Australian Water Awards in Brisbane.
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