Water treatment pools

Melbourne Water said it is on track to halve its emissions by 2025 and reduce them to net zero by 2030, thanks to the installation of multiple renewable energy sources. 

It takes a large amount of electricity – more than345,000MW hours a year – to deliver clean and safe water, remove and treat sewage, and manage drainage and waterways across Melbourne. 

Melbourne Water said its renewable energy portfolio includes award-winning biogas, hydropower and solar generation throughout its water supply and sewage network to reduce carbon emissions and operating costs. 

The utility’s Eastern Treatment Plant (ETP) hosts some of Melbourne Water’s newest renewable energy infrastructure. 

An 18MW solar farm, made up of 39,000 solar panels and fully operational since December 2023, is one of Australia’s largest behind-the-meter solar installations.  

This means that just like solar panels and batteries on your house keep the lights on or charge your electric vehicle, energy generated at the solar farm is used on-site at ETP. 

The solar farm produces 30GW hours of electricity per year. It reduces 28,800t of carbon dioxide per year, equal to the amount generated by 6,000 households. 

Melbourne Water Managing Director, Nerina Di Lorenzo, said, “Electricity generation is Australia’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to a large proportion of Melbourne Water’s own operational emissions. Taking action now to transition to a clean energy future will support the delivery of our commitment to a carbon neutral water sector by 2030. 

“Melbourne Water has installed 75MW of renewable energy generation since 2005 to help reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. We are committed to further reducing our emissions across all areas of our business as we work towards achieving net zero,” Ms Di Lorenzo said. 

The utility also captures biogas, primarily methane and carbon dioxide, as part of the sewage treatment process. Recently upgraded, the biogas handling allows Melbourne Water to maximise the conversion of waste to energy, which in turn provides about 30 per cent of ETP’s electricity needs and significantly reduces its carbon footprint. 

A newly installed solar farm can now fully power the Winneke Water Treatment Plant at certain times of the day. The farm utilises cutting-edge terrain tracking sensors, a first of its kind in Australia.  

It consists of 19,000 solar panels situated on the natural slope around the Sugarloaf Reservoir. This setup generates 12.4GW hours a year, equivalent to the annual electricity demand of about 2,500 households. 

Melbourne Water also harnesses hydropower or hydroelectric power, the world’s oldest form of renewable energy and the largest renewable source of electricity throughout its water supply network. 

Melbourne Water’s operations at St Albans Reservoir are powered by a new 400kW hydroelectricity plant, the 16th infrastructure asset of its kind. The plant joins the recently completed 315KW Upper Yarra, Yarra Valley Conduit hydroelectricity plant, while a 990KW hydropower plant at O’Shannassy Reservoir is about to begin construction and will be completed in 2025. 

Ms Di Lorenzo said, “We are in the decade that matters. Our actions now will define our future. We must also adapt our operations to prepare for a changing climate. 

“There are tremendous opportunities that come with the transition to clean energy. By leveraging both old and new technologies, we can meet the global challenge of reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on our local environment.” 

Image: https://www.shutterstock.com/g/gregbrave  

Assistant Editor, Utility magazine

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