An initial $10 million investment is the introduction to a comprehensive strategy aimed at achieving zero-net electricity costs by 2020.
SA Water is looking to install 152 megawatts of solar photo-volatic generation and 35 megawatt hours of energy storage over the next two years, at around 70 of its sights across the state.
“We are one of the largest electricity users in the state – we spend about $55 million on power every year,” said SA Water CEO Roch Cheroux. “The first step is to ask, what can we do to be in a position where our electricity cost is zero?
“What we are planning to do is a combination of three things: One is to increase our electricity production capacity, mainly with solar panels. The second idea is to increase our storage capacity. And the third is to use sophisticated analytical tools to manage our energy.”
The plan will involve a three-stage approach designed around the production, storage and analysis of power at SA Water’s facilities around the state. Initially starting with the installation of the solar panels, SA Water is already trialing various pilot projects for the production and storage stages of the process.
Working with Adelaide-based companies 1414 Degrees and Greenfields Energy, SA Water will use a combination of chemical battery storage, new thermal energy storage and flywheel mechanical energy storage systems.
“We’re now looking to hear from experienced an capable supplies who can help deliver arrays ranging in size from 100 kilowatts to 13 megawatts, at metropolitan and regional locations”.
An initial Expression of Interest with guidance from prospective vendors is now available through tenders.sa.gov.au.
The primary phases of the investment are being used to trial the pilot storage systems at several of SA Water’s facilities to determine the success of the three solutions in an attempt to optimise the storage of power for later use.
“The solar panels will come on stream quite quickly,” Cheroux said. What will happen in the second part is more the storage that we are currently testing with the chemical batteries at Crystal Brook, the thermal storage that is ongoing at Glenelg, and the mechanical storage in Hope Valley.
“We want to go through a few months of testing and piloting of these three solutions before we finalise the investment with storage.”
A third and final stage of the process will involve analytics to manage the different production systems, and the energy storage system. SA Water plans to use the analysis to establish further plans moving forward.
“Analytics is critically important to optimising the system,” Cheroux said. “Having the support mechanism to tell us when it is better to buy in the market rather than produce, or whether we need to discharge the storage.”
Since the announcement of the initiative in December last year, work has almost been completed on a $500,000 100-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system and 50-kilowatt-per-hour battery storage at SA Water’s Crystal Brook facilities.
The strategy complements SA Water’s existing renewable energy systems at the Bolivar and Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plants.
“We’ve already got a number of things that we are doing to manage and control our expenses. We are producing energy with biogas and hydroelectricity at our wastewater treatment plant,” Cheroux said. “We already have some of our plants that are nearly self-sufficient in terms of energy.”
While the initiative will dramatically reduce the amount SA Water is spending on power, it will also have an effect on the 1.6 million South Australians the provider serves.
“When we have been speaking to customers about it they have been very interested because the customers have been experiencing high electricity prices just as we do,” said Cheroux.
“They are very positive that we are doing something about it and getting to a solution where we could reduce our electricity bill to zero, and therefore have an impact on their water bill.”
Should SA Water achieve this goal, it will be the first utility in Australia to do so. Further investments will be heavily influenced by the success of the pilot trials to achieve the target of zero-net electricity costs within two years.
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