Almost one tonne of native grass and saltbush seed will soon be sown under thousands of solar panels across regional South Australia as part of an important land revegetation project by SA Water complimenting the utility’s green energy goal of a zero cost energy future.
Collected in partnership with South Australian company Succession Ecology from regional locations including Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla and Peterborough, the 980 kilograms of low-growing grasses and saltbush species will be planted at five regional SA Water pump stations along the Morgan to Whyalla, Swan Reach to Paskeville and Mannum to Adelaide pipelines.
The pump stations are among 35 SA Water sites set to house around 500,000 solar panels generating 242 gigawatt hours of electricity, and will assist in reducing the utility’s reliance on the electricity grid while also reducing carbon emissions by more than 89,000 tonnes a year.
SA Water Vegetation Specialist Shaun Kennedy said the plantings will provide a diverse native groundcover beneath the solar array as a long-term strategy for weed and dust suppression while reducing heat build-up.
“These former cropping and grazing paddocks have limited perennial vegetation cover that is prone to weed invasion and dust problems in summer, and we’re keen to apply our expertise in delivering revegetation projects to create a healthy and sustainable vegetation system that is compatible with our new solar arrays,” Shaun said.
“Many of the pump station sites are located in marginal rainfall country, so it is vitally important that we include a diverse mix of species sourced from genetically-robust wild populations to ensure we get a vegetation system with the in-built resilience to adapt to a variable climate.
“Fortunately many native species had a bumper seed-set over autumn following much needed rainfall across Port Pirie and surrounding areas, and we look forward to sowing the first bags of seed alongside our pump stations in Robertstown and Geranium Plains in the coming months.
“It has been important throughout the challenges presented by COVID-19 that we carry-on where possible with projects to improve our operations while supporting South Australian businesses and the wider economy, and we’re proud to have worked with Succession Ecology on this large vegetation project and the economic benefits it has delivered to them.”
Succession Ecology Director and Revegetation Consultant Glenn Christie said the project allowed his company to employ a further four people through the seed collection process.
“Like many businesses the threat of COVID-19 nearly forced us to close our doors, but fortunately thanks to our involvement with this project, we’ve been able to bring onboard a group of Environmental Science students who had all recently lost their employment in hospitality,” Glenn said.
“The beauty of the seed varieties collected is its ability to create a native biodiversity attracting insects and birds with the vegetation only reaching knee height as to not impact solar performance.
“It was a great experience to call some amazing parts of northern SA as our office for a few weeks, and while we came away with the normal calluses that come with hand-collecting hundreds of kilograms of saltbush, it was terrific to be part of such a large-scale seed collection project with SA Water.”
For more information on SA Water’s zero cost energy future project, visit sawater.com.au.
For media enquiries, please call or email SA Water’s media team:
Phone: (08) 7424 2477
Mobile: 0477 300 197 (24/7)
For all other SA Water-related enquiries, please call our Customer Care Centre on 1300 SA WATER (1300 729 283).