SA Water has agreed to purchase 14 hectares of land at the former ExxonMobil Port Stanvac oil refinery to construct a solar farm of more than 35,000 solar photovoltaic panels.
The panels will produce renewable energy for the neighbouring Adelaide Desalination Plant, and contribute to the utility’s pursuit of a zero cost energy future.
Closed in 2003 and demolished in 2014, the broader 240-hectare oil refinery site at Port Stanvac is undergoing a 10 year program to remediate the site to a standard suitable for future industrial activity.
SA Water’s Senior Manager of Zero Cost Energy Future Nicola Murphy said it was pleasing to be able to breathe new life into the land, with a program that demonstrates how to transition to a low carbon economy.
“The site will see a complete turnaround from facilitating a traditional energy source to housing renewable energy resources that will reduce our carbon emissions by 10,710 tonnes per year,” Nicola said.
“Located on the northeast corner of the former refinery precinct, this piece of land hadn’t actually been used for operational refinery activities, and geotechnical and environmental investigations confirmed it is suitable for our solar project.”
Fitted to fixed-tilt racking systems on an east to west axis, the new arrays of two metre long and one metre wide solar panels will generate an average total of 21 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year.
“Solar panels are already being installed on our existing land across the road at the Adelaide Desalination Plant and we’re hoping to start construction on this new site in mid-2020.
“During high production mode the combined solar generation and battery storage will offset around 50% of the plant’s energy costs, with the facility’s existing hydro turbines making additional smaller contributions.
“In times of higher rainfall when the plant operates in a lower production mode, the combined solar generation and battery storage will provide more energy than the facility requires and return the excess to the National Electricity Market.
“As with all of our energy projects, we’re committed to ensuring construction works throughout the duration of the project will be completed with minimal impact to the surrounding environmental area.”
One of the largest single electricity consumers in the state, SA Water’s intensive drinking water and wastewater pumping and treatment operations throughout a dry 2018/19 cost $83 million.
As part of SA Water’s ambitious renewable energy management initiative, more than 500,000 solar panels will be installed across 37 of its sites across the state to produce 242 GWh of electricity, along with 34 megawatt hours of battery storage.
“The desalination process requires a significant amount of energy, so putting more focus on our own energy generation will reduce our overall draw on the local electricity grid, allowing us to better manage operating costs,” Nicola said.
“We will still need to draw electricity from the grid, but we’ll offset those costs by storing and selling energy we produce at other times.
“Sustainability is at the core of this program: sustainably reducing our operational costs, and delivering positive environmental outcomes.
“The 25 year design life of modern renewable energy assets sees embedded emissions offset within six months, and in our case the half million solar panels continue to deliver the equivalent benefit of planting 7 million trees over their design life.”
SA Water’s zero cost energy future initiative has already seen around 130,000 solar panels located at sites like the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant and major pump stations along the Morgan to Whyalla Pipeline, and a number of roof and ground-mounted smaller sites across the state, with the remaining panels due to be installed before the end of the year.
“This initiative was designed by our people, and is a clear demonstration of South Australians leading the way with the smarts and skills to strategically integrate renewable energy and storage within the longest water network in the country.”
More information about SA Water’s plans for a zero cost energy future is available at sawater.com.au.
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