SA Water General Manager Mark Gobbie with Senior Manager Zero Cost Energy Future Nicola Murphy at the Morgan-Whyalla third pump station

Two South Australian utilities are working together throughout the pandemic to ensure their renewable energy project remains on schedule.

SA Water and ElectraNet, two of the state’s largest power and water providers, are working on a project to realise SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future program.

As part of SA Water’s green energy project, involving the installation of more than 500,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels at 35 metropolitan and regional sites, ElectraNet has been contracted to complete six large-scale substation upgrades to allow surplus energy generated by SA Water to be supplied to the National Electricity Market (NEM).

SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future program will see 242GWh of new solar generation integrated within its network to run energy-intensive infrastructure.

It has already resulted in 147,000 solar panels located at sites like the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant, Adelaide Desalination Plant and Christies Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant.

One of the project’s larger solar arrays is at the 358km Morgan to Whyalla Pipeline’s third pump station, where around 19,000 panels will produce more than 14GWh and will connect to ElectraNet’s existing substation on the 132KV network.

SA Water’s Senior Manager Zero Cost Energy Future, Nicola Murphy, said both businesses readily adapted to the ever-changing situation to help reduce potential risks to the project’s construction target.

“During these challenging times, it’s important that we carry on where possible with projects to improve our operations while also supporting the state’s economy by keeping our partners and the supply chain working,” Ms Murphy said.

“While this is not without its challenges, together with ElectraNet we applied new ways of working to uphold strict social distancing and hygiene standards, including the adoption of virtual meetings and reducing personnel numbers on site when completing and confirming isolations.”

Both SA Water and ElectraNet are using locally-based company Enerven to undertake the works with the same project management and delivery team. 

This has created efficiencies and streamlined health and safety processes by reducing the rotation of different people through work sites.

“We also acquired many solar PV panels and critical plant, including circuit breakers, current transformers and protection relays, to complete the installation and substation upgrade more than forty weeks ago, meaning most of the essential equipment was either on-site or in transit before COVID-19 measures came into place,” Ms Murphy said.

“This has helped avoid potential time, cost and skilled resource availability impacts of mobilising, de-mobilising and re-mobilising to sites, while still delivering positive flow-on effects to both our businesses and the wider South Australian economy.

“This initiative is a clear demonstration of both SA Water and ElectraNet leading the way with the smarts and skills to strategically deliver a green energy project of this size, while adapting flexibly in the ever-changing and difficult situation we continue to face.”

ElectraNet’s Group Executive Corporate Development, Ashley Manna, said a strong and collaborative commitment by all towards health and safety, and resolving project challenges, has ensured works continue.

“COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges to the project’s delivery, but when you have a strong commitment to safety and problem solving from all parties involved, these challenges can be overcome,” Ms Manna said.

“The project is quite complex with connection activities across multiple sites. Each site has presented its own unique challenges, which has meant effective and proactive communication between ElectraNet, SA Water and its contractors has been essential.

“Given the tight project timeframes, an accelerated delivery model was applied that involved working closely with SA Water to identify and manage the project’s risks and opportunities.

“We value our working relationship with SA Water and helping them deliver their green project is enhancing our relationship and ensuring the electricity network plays its important role in supporting the delivery of water supplies to South Australians.”

Ms Murphy said the project was now in a strong position as COVID-19-related restrictions began to ease.

“Maintaining progress during the peak of the restrictions has held us in good stead and was so important – avoiding potential scrambles to recover lost time and regroup the highly skilled construction and delivery workforce that could have dispersed if they weren’t kept in work.”

As two of South Australia’s largest utilities, ElectraNet owns and manages South Australia’s 5,600km high voltage transmission network, while SA Water provides clean, safe drinking water and wastewater services to 1.7 million customers.

More information on SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future program is available here.

Featured image: SA Water General Manager, Mark Gobbie, with Senior Manager Zero Cost Energy Future, Nicola Murphy, at the Morgan-Whyalla third pump station, South Australia.

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