Solar floats electricity costs to zero

22-12-2017

Solar floats electricity costs to zero

SA Water will trial floating solar panel arrays on its Happy Valley Reservoir next year, with the installation of a  100 kilowatt pilot system, in an effort to further increase its energy self-sufficiency and contribute to the corporation's goal of achieving zero net electricity costs by 2020.

As well as producing electricity to power the nearby Happy Valley Water Treatment Plant, the floating solar panels may also help reduce evaporation and the incidence of algal blooms.

SA Water Chief Executive Roch Cheroux said if successful, the initiative had wide-spread potential across the corporation's assets.

"Reservoirs have large flat surfaces with good sun exposure, and are typically co-located with energy-intense water pumping and treatment plants, so it makes sense they might prove a good place to generate electricity," he said.

"Reducing the surface area exposed to sunlight will also lower the water lost through natural evaporation processes, which is estimated to be around 1500 ML from Happy Valley each year.

"Naturally occurring algal blooms also increase as the sun illuminates and warms the water, so reducing these conditions could minimise their growth and the additional treatment processes we need to put in place to maintain water quality.

Applications overseas have confirmed the floating solar panels have no negative impact on drinking water quality.  

French company Akuo Energy will be provided access to Happy Valley Reservoir to implement the test program, which will initially use technology from floating solar pioneer Ciel et Terre. Should the pilot program be a success, Akuo Energy will investigate options to have floats manufactured in South Australia.  

This project is part of a suite of renewable energy generation, storage, optimisation and efficiency initiatives being pursued by SA Water to achieve its goal of having zero net electricity costs by 2020.

"We’ve already been reducing our electricity costs by more than $3 million a year since 2013, so we know that with a concerted push, our goal is ambitious, but within reach," Roch said.

“Sustainably reducing operational expenses like electricity will help us keep water and sewerage services charges as low and stable as possible, and is one way we can contribute to easing cost of living pressures for our customers.”

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