SA Water Sowing Solar Farms With Saltbush

SA Water solar farm revegetation

Image: SA Water via Facebook

Native grasses and saltbush will be growing under rows of solar panels in what were previously cropping and grazing paddocks that were turned into SA Water clean power stations.

980 kilograms of seed from low-growing grasses and saltbush species will be planted at five regional SA Water pump stations situated along the Morgan to Whyalla, Swan Reach to Paskeville and Mannum to Adelaide pipelines.

These sites are among 35 SA Water facilities that will collectively host approximately 500,000 solar panels under the utility’s ambitious Zero Cost Energy Future initiative. Once complete, the solar energy installations are expected to generate 242 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year, slashing the utility’s power costs and also avoiding more than 89,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. The utility, which is one of South Australia’s biggest energy consumers, racked up $83 million in electricity costs in 2018/19.

Seeds for the revegetation project were gathered in partnership with  South Australian company Succession Ecology, which is based at University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy Campus, and sourced from regional locations include Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla and Peterborough.

“These former cropping and grazing paddocks have limited perennial vegetation cover that is prone to weed invasion and dust problems in summer, and we’re keen to apply our expertise in delivering revegetation projects to create a healthy and sustainable vegetation system that is compatible with our new solar arrays,” said SA Water Vegetation Specialist Shaun Kennedy.

Any dust reduction will benefit energy generation and there may be another plus – some saltbush species have fire retardant attributes.

The revegetation project has proven a godsend for Succession Ecology, which was on the brink of ceasing operations due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Like many businesses the threat of COVID-19 nearly forced us to close our doors, but fortunately thanks to our involvement with this project, we’ve been able to bring onboard a group of Environmental Science students who had all recently lost their employment in hospitality,” said Succession Ecology Director and Revegetation Consultant Glenn Christie.

The first bags of seed will be sown alongside pump stations in Robertstown and Geranium Plains in the coming months.

Mount Pleasant Solar Project Complete

In other recent news from SA Water, its Mount Pleasant Water Treatment Plant recently had 100 rooftop solar panels installed that will generate approximately 58 megawatt-hours of electricity a year.

The Mount Pleasant system is one of four being integrated by SA Water across the Adelaide Hills area; with a total of 3,500 panels to be installed at its Hahndorf Wastewater Treatment Plant, Summit reservoir and water treatment plant and pump station at Lobethal.

In January, SA Water announced it was investing more than $300 million in solar power installations and 34 MWh of battery storage this year.

As at early July, around 147,000 solar panels had been installed under SA Water’s Zero Cost Energy Future initiative – so there’s still a lot of installation work ahead. Originally SA Water had intended for work to be completed by the end of this year, but the coronavirus situation has created some challenges. However, last month SA Water said its solar power rollout was on track.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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