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‘Mini-hydro’ plants pump up utilities’ renewable energy output

To tackle the ongoing energy consumption challenge faced by water utilities, a major Victorian provider has installed five mini-hydro plants that harness the power of renewable energy.

Melbourne Water’s mini-hydro plants – located in Dandenong, Wantirna, Mount Waverley, Boronia and Cardinia Creek – were delivered in pre-assembled, self-contained units, offering a simple solution to power delivery that’s quick to install.

Melbourne Water Senior Project Manager Ian Royston said the utility has designed the plants to take advantage of the utility’s energy production potential.

“Using excess pressure inherent in Melbourne Water’s water supply system to generate renewable electricity means we are harnessing a natural, sustainable and reliable source of energy, rather than letting this energy go to waste,” Royston said.

“The use of mini-hydro plants allows our water supply operations to actually contribute more electricity to the grid than they consume.”

This generation of mini-hydro projects is also producing increased cost efficiency compared to Melbourne Water’s 2008-2010 mini-hydro project due to the new design, as the plants are built offsite and installed as self-contained units.

The mini-hydro plants were lowered onto a concrete base positioned next to water storage facilities, with water flowing through the plant at high pressure.

Water diverted through the mini-hydro plant is then returned back into the water supply system.

The plants are expected to deliver in excess of 5100MW hours’ worth of power per year, enough to power about 1048 homes, Royston said.

“This will prevent over 5600 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, which is equivalent to taking 2165 cars off the road,” he said.

“Now that all five of our new mini-hydros are operating, on top of our existing plants, Melbourne Water will generate more than 69,500MW hours of power per year via hydroelectric generation, or enough power for more than 14,100 homes. We will be preventing over 75,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to taking more than 29,200 cars off the road.

“Based on last year’s consumption in water supply operations, this would be 13,413MW hours more than consumed.”

Royston said the new project offers a unique and innovative approach to renewable energy production, with Melbourne Water hoping to install more of the units in future.

“It is very personally satisfying to see these new mini plants all being switched on and delivering power back into the grid,” he said.

“For me seeing the inherent energy in our gravity-fed water supply system being captured rather than going to waste makes me proud and it is something for all Melburnians to be proud of, as it is very unique to our city.”