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Renewable energy system powers wastewater treatment plant

In a first for Australian solar-powered energy, one Victorian water utility has installed a large-scale, 100-kilowatt solar system atop its water tank at a treatment facility in Hamilton.

Wannon Water has claimed to be the first water utility to install a solar system of this size on existing wastewater infrastructure, and hopes its effort encourages other local water utility entities to do the same.

Project Manager Murray Dancey said under the right conditions, the panels power 100% of the treatment plant’s energy needs.

“On sunny days, the entire water treatment plant can be 100% powered by renewable energy, with any excess being exported to neighbouring properties via a grid connection,” he said.

“On its first full day of operation, the system produced enough energy to supply 70% of the daily requirements for the plant which produces clean drinking water for Hamilton, Dunkeld and Tarrington.”

The installation consists of 344 panels on the roof of the clear water storage tank and is expected to reduce the plant’s demand on the electricity grid by 25%, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 150,000kg a year.

The panels have been installed on racking systems across the tank’s roof, which have the advantage of being above any shade from surrounding trees or buildings.

Even though the system costs $120,000, the utility said it expects it to be paid off within seven years as a result of reduced energy costs.

Wannon Water Managing Director Andrew Jeffers said the new system is on the path to helping it achieve its net-zero emissions by 2050 pledge, with an interim target of a 40% reduction by 2025.

“It’s an excellent example of how innovative thinking can deliver multiple benefits for our customers, the environment and the communities we serve,” Jeffers said.

Wannon Water also recently installed a smaller solar panel system at its Gateway Road office in Warrnambool in March and is currently investigating the installation of renewable energy systems on its other facilities across Victoria.

Wannon Water has been nominated as a finalist in the Infrastructure Project Innovation Award category and the Program Innovation Award category in the Victorian Water Awards. The winners will be announced at the VIC Awards Luncheon on 7 December.

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