Australia’s water industry is continuing to adopt on-site renewables to power its energy-intensive operations. In the latest such move, Western Australia’s government-owned Water Corporation is readying to install solar at around 50 of its pump stations, other buildings, and borefields throughout the state.
The $30 million project will be rolled out over three years with the goal to reduce the environmental footprint of the utility’s operations. The Water Corporation will install about 45,000 rooftop solar panels with the accumulated capacity of 15 MW, the equivalent of powering 4,400 households and reducing its emissions by around 18,000 tonnes per year.
“The State’s water supplies are being adversely affected by climate change and the decline in rainfall, particularly in the South-West,” Water Minister Dave Kelly said. “It is important water utilities take every opportunity now to lead by example and do what they can to increase the use of renewable energy, such as solar, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that fast-track climate change.”
The Water Corporation delivers essential water and wastewater services across 2.6 million square kilometers, which requires a significant amount of energy. Since 2018, the WA state government has invested $2.8 million in 30 renewable energy projects at Water Corporation sites throughout the state, including six locations in regional Western Australia. Its latest investment highlights the need for stronger action amid climate change-induced droughts.
Across Australia, water utilities have been making efforts towards greening their operations. In a recent study, University of Queensland researchers have quantified this shift and found that in 2018, the Australian water industry generated 18% (279 GWh/y) of its electricity demand from on-site renewable electricity sources.
However, this number has certainly changed since the researchers’ focus year. Last year, thirteen of Victoria’s water corporations partnered to buy clean energy from the Kiamal Solar Farm to cover between 20 to 50% of each corporation’s total energy needs.
In South Australia, SA Water, the state’s largest water and sewage services supplier and one of the largest electricity users, announced plans to invest more than $300 million and deploy approximately 154 MW of new solar PV generation and 34 MWh of energy storage. Adelaide-headquartered contractor Enerven is set to roll out the program across more than 70 sites this year as SA Water seeks to achieve its ambitious zero energy cost future.