Utilities Digital Solutions Australasia and Pacific

SA Water shines bright with $300m solar investment

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

South Australia utility SA Water will pump $300 million of investment into renewable energy as part of its Zero Cost Energy Future initiative to help beat the growing energy crisis.

One of the biggest energy investments in Australia

One of the largest renewable energy projects in the Australian water industry, SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future initiative will install more than 360,000 solar panels at 33 of its pipelines, pump stations and other assets.

Once 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.

In total, SA Water will generate about 70 per cent of the electricity it needs to treat water and pump it around South Australia. 

SA Water says the panels will be able to generate the equivalent energy capacity to power more than 4,000 average South Australian households with certain sites able to achieve a carbon emissions reduction of about 11,000 tonnes each year.

“SA Water will generate about 70 per cent of the electricity it needs to treat water and pump it around South Australia.”

“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 of this vital pipeline,” said Nicola Murphy, SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future senior manager.

"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.”

In its latest development, SA Water has installed 34,272 solar panels at the 50-kilometre-long Murray Bridge to Onkaparinga Pipeline. 

Collectively they will generate 25.6 GWh of solar electricity each year for power-pumping operations.

This pipeline takes water from the River Murray to the Mount Bold Reservoir and the Kanmantoo and Balhannah water treatment plants in the Adelaide Hills.

Net-zero road map

SA Water is not alone in trying to tackle the looming energy crisis and war on carbon. 

The water sector is starting to look at its carbon output and set plans in motion to reach net-zero targets. 

At the World Water Tech Summit in London, David Riley, head of carbon neutrality from Anglian Water said organisations need to think about their purpose when they start their carbon journeys.

“Having the net-zero objective drives business efficiency,” he said. “An effective carbon strategy not only reduces carbon but also reduces cost.”

Last summer, Anglian Water set out a roadmap detailing how the utility will reach net zero carbon by 2030. It was one of the first utilities in the UK to launch a sustainability-linked bond connected directly to achieving its interim carbon targets.

Other UK utilities are going one step further, with Northumbria Water Group setting the Net Zero target for 2027. This includes powering all of its 1,858 sites using renewable electricity.

“Having the net-zero objective drives business efficiency.”

According to trade group Water UK, water companies collectively produce almost a third of UK industrial and waste process emissions and therefore have a major role to play in tackling climate change. 

Therefore, it set out the Net-Zero Route map, a sector-wide plan to deliver net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. 

Designed to offer a range of potential pathways to suit the different requirements of water companies, the strategy shows what is possible and opens doors to other industries.

The UK Government has set out a strategy to decarbonise all sectors of the British economy to meet its own target of being net-zero by 2050.

Turning to innovation

Ahead of the government’s 2050 targets, water utilities have collectively pledged to save the emissions of 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas. 

At the recent Global Water Summit in Madrid, organised by Global Water Intelligence, Isle UK presented ’30 technologies for Net Zero’.

From emission monitoring drones to gas infusion bio-reactors, retractable solar roofs to cryogenic fuel, algal reactors, total FOG solutions, heat recovery and even bamboo forests.

There are no shortages of innovations aiming to the part of the solution for net-zero. Karyn Georges, managing director of Isle UK, believes the adoption of new innovations will be fundamental for UK utilities to reach the 2030 target.

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