SA Water has awarded a framework agreement contract of up to $304 million to allow an Australian company to deploy 154MW of new solar photovoltaic generation and 34 megawatt hours of energy storage at 70 of its sites over the coming year and a half.

The investment in more than 500,000 solar panels is expected to deliver a return on investment in six years, and help SA Water reach its ambitious goal of achieving zero net electricity costs from 2020.

Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs, said the project is expected to support around 250 jobs during construction, and include Aboriginal business engagement, apprentice training and opportunity for the supply chain within South Australia.

“The scale and complexity of this landmark program will deliver opportunities for local businesses across a range of sectors, drawing on South Australian excellence in everything from civil works through to security services, engineering and project management, to high-tech system automation,” Mr Speirs said.

“SA Water staff conceived and shaped this initiative – that’s South Australians leading the way with the smarts and skills to strategically integrate renewable energy and storage within the longest water network in the country.”

SA Water Chief Executive, Roch Cheroux, said neutralising large operating costs like electricity – which reached $62 million in 2017-18 – will help deliver low and stable prices for customers.

“Our bigger picture is a zero cost energy future, where we regain control over one of our single largest operational expenses. There’s no doubt our ambitious goal will be a stretch, but we won’t lose sight of it,” Mr Cheroux said.

“We provide 1.7 million people across South Australia with safe, clean drinking water and reliable sewerage services every day, and the water and wastewater treatment and pumping operations behind this are very energy intensive and make us one of the biggest electricity users in the state.

“This is an important milestone for our energy management activities, and boots getting ready to hit the ground are a signal that we’ll soon start seeing benefit realisation, as the new sites are progressively energised.”

Enerven, the recipient of the framework agreement contract, was successful in an extensive, multi-stage public procurement process completed with the oversight of an independently appointed probity advisor, and is expected to mobilise to the first group of sites – including large facilities like the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant and Morgan Water Treatment Plant – in the first half of 2019.

Enerven General Manager, Richard Amato, said SA Water’s energy initiative is an exciting example of South Australia leading the transition to a renewable energy future.

“We’re relishing the opportunity to be part of a world class program like this, helping a forward-thinking company like SA Water harness renewable technology to deliver benefits for its customers and the environment,” Mr Amato said.

“Growing and developing the local industry as we deliver projects is important to us because it drives lower costs and higher productivity, sustainable outcomes, and fosters innovation based on local knowledge.”

Enerven is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SA Power Networks, headquartered in Adelaide, with more than 500 staff based from branch offices, warehouses and depots located within metropolitan and regional South Australia.

A local sub-contractor set to play a key role in the delivery of SA Water’s new energy infrastructure is Tonsley-based SAGE Automation, which will deliver control and monitoring systems.

SAGE CEO, Adrian Fahey, said, “Our 350-strong team work on projects across the world and are excited about bringing their knowledge back to bear on an iconic project, right here in our backyard.”

“By including sophisticated automation with their new generation infrastructure, SA Water is creating assets that will truly integrate with their wider water and wastewater operations to deliver a fundamental change to their operations.”

Installation of the new solar arrays will take priority, with energy storage devices to follow after the results of trials, with traditional and thermal devices determined to be the most suitable technology combinations.

This investment will increase the total of SA Water’s solar generation capacity to approximately 160MW, which exceeds that of many large-scale commercial solar projects, and will complement a range of other existing energy initiatives like biogas and hydroelectric generation, and trading as a market participant.

Following an initial $10 million investment in December 2017, the construction of 6MW of solar at SA Water’s Glenelg, Hope Valley and Christies Beach facilities is nearing completion, and will connect to the National Electricity Market in coming months.

Image courtesy of SA Water, taken by Ben Searcy. Image shows Roch Cheroux, CEO SA Water, with staff at at Christies Beach water treatment works.

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.

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