Four companies have been shortlisted by the South Australian Government  to tender for the installation of 500,000 solar panels on key infrastructure in the state.

The plans come as a result of SA Water’s goal to neutralise its electricity costs.  

The project will see the successful vendors work with SA Water to fix rooftop and ground-based solar panels to 93 of its sites across the state, creating an estimated 250 jobs during construction.

“The government is committed to easing cost of living pressures and that’s why we have already established an independent inquiry into water pricing and remain committed to continuing with this groundbreaking initiative,” said Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs.

“Under the previous government, water and power prices continually increased, putting pressure on South Australian families and businesses.

“On top of our water pricing inquiry, the new government is pursuing projects like this that make environmental sense and can put downward pressures on water bills.”

Mr Speirs said that this solar project is the largest way SA Water can reduce its operating costs to deliver sustainable savings and a low and stable price path for its customers.

“SA Water’s solar generation capacity will be enough to power 50,000 average South Australian homes, and being coupled with storage means it will also help manage electricity network demand across the state and deliver the reliable grid outlined in our Government’s Energy Plan.”

Contracts will be awarded in coming months, with Project Zero expected to be completed by 2020.  

Combining 154MW of new solar generation with around 34MW hours of energy storage devices, the system will neutralise the utility’s electricity and network costs, which reached $55 million for 220GW hours in 2016/17.

SA Water Chief Executive, Roch Cheroux, said the organisation, by its nature, was energy intensive but had already adopted several cost saving measures.

“Through a range of energy initiatives like biogas and hydroelectric generation, and trading as a market participant, we’ve cut more than $3 million a year from our electricity bills since 2013 – and now we’re going to see another big step-change,” said Mr Cheroux.

“We recently installed a small trial system at our Crystal Brook depot with 100 kilowatt of panels and a 50 kilowatt hour battery, which is providing energy for the site and has already reduced its draw from the grid by 30 per cent.”

Construction has also begun on an extra 5MW of solar photovoltaic arrays at metropolitan water and wastewater treatment plants, including a 1.5MW system at the Hope Valley precinct.

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