Regional areas across South Australia will play a key role in SA Water’s ambitious goal of achieving a zero cost energy future, with 242 gigawatt hours (GWh) of solar photovoltaic panels to be deployed across the state.
SA Water will invest more than $300 million to install the new solar arrays and 34 MWh of energy storage devices on the utility’s locations across the state, including the Adelaide Hills, South East, Eyre Peninsula, Fleurieu Peninsula, Far North and Riverland.
SA Water Senior Manager Zero Cost Energy Future Nicola Murphy said the panels will be installed over the next 12 months, to help neutralise electricity costs which reached nearly $83 million in 2018/19.
“We’re delivering initiatives to keep our operations as efficient as possible to help keep customers’ water prices as low and stable as possible,” said Nicola.
“Large operational circuit breakers like this are essential to achieving savings and future price reductions.
“Our water and wastewater treatment and pumping operations provide up to 1.7 million people across South Australia with safe, clean drinking water, every day, but are very energy intensive and make us one of the biggest electricity users in the state.”
The investment in more than 500,000 solar panels across 35 sites will also deliver significant positive environmental outcomes, reducing CO² emissions by more than 89,000 tonnes a year – equivalent to planting seven million trees or removing more than 32,000 cars from the road per year, every year of operation.
Mrs Murphy said that big goals are only achieved with even bigger commitment.
“We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal, but this kind of innovative thinking can shake up traditional models and deliver sustainable savings – and we’re backing ourselves and our key partners to deliver it,” she said.
“Through a range of energy initiatives like biogas and hydroelectric generation, and trading as a market participant, we’ve already cut more than $3 million a year from our electricity bills since 2013, so we know it’s within reach.”
SA Water will generate and store energy on site to reduce its reliance on expensive grid electricity and create a revenue stream from carefully timed sales back to the market, to offset the cost of electricity that will need to be purchased at times of peak demand or low solar productivity.
“Locating generation behind the meter will improve our resilience to grid interruptions, significantly reduce our network charges and isolate our business from electricity market price volatility, in both the short and long-term,” said Nicola.
“We’ll always need to use and buy some electricity, but we can be smart in our approach to managing it as we work towards a zero cost energy future.”
The Australian water industry is energy intensive, requiring approximately 3,000 GWh of electricity annually, with SA Water consuming almost one fifth of the national total.
“Importantly, our progressive leap forward will help demonstrate the way renewable generation can be integrated at large utility scale, and help the global transition to a low-carbon future.”
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