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SA Water has reached a key milestone in its push towards net zero emissions, with South Australia’s largest wastewater treatment facility achieving record levels of energy self-sufficiency.

By increasing the production of biogas – a by-product of the wastewater treatment process – SA Water’s Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant generated 3,099MW hours of renewable energy in July, marking the highest monthly levels recorded and well above the yearly average of 2,800MWhours.

The renewables record underpinned the site reaching 112 per cent energy sufficiency for the month, which followed 106 and 98 per cent self-sufficiency in the two months prior – with the excess green energy produced in May and July exported to the electricity grid, further reducing the utility’s operating expenses.

Bolivar’s 14m high anaerobic digestors capture and heat solid waste from the sewage treatment process to naturally break down the organic matter, with the resulting gases used to power the site’s large engines, which power various stages of the treatment process.

SA Water’s General Manager of Operations, Chris Young, said the energy produced was crucial in reducing exposure to market volatility and saving thousands in operating electricity expenses.

“Being one of South Australia’s largest electricity users, it’s important we can continue to harness ways of making our operations as efficient and sustainable as possible,” Mr Young said.

“With recent volatility in Australia’s electricity spot market underpinning a significant increase in costs for both households and organisations like ours, we looked at ways to maximise the production and use of biogas to power our Bolivar site, particularly in times when prices spiked.

“While previously achieving an average of 85 per cent self-sufficiency at Bolivar, this has increased significantly over the past twelve months to reach a new average of 95 per cent.

“When you consider our Bolivar plant treats the majority of wastewater for metropolitan Adelaide, being able to achieve self-sufficiency is a significant achievement.

“The flow-on benefits of renewable energy sources like biogas also reduce our carbon footprint, and this will only grow further with thousands of solar photovoltaic panels and on-site battery storage set to be energised at Bolivar over the coming months.”

Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant is operated together with SUEZ, SA Water’s production and treatment alliance partner, and treats an estimated 150 million litres of sewage every day – the equivalent of around sixty Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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