With water utilities racking up millions of dollars in energy bills each year, more organisations are turning to solar power to reduce costs and their environmental impact.
Queensland’s Unitywater is the latest to debut a solar-powered project. The organisation has installed solar panels at its Kenilworth sewage treatment plant, which it says has enabled the facility to become energy neutral.
Unitywater Executive Manager Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions Amanda Creevey said the initiative will also help reduce the utility’s carbon emissions by 12 tonnes a year.
“Our 17 sewage treatment plants require a lot of energy to run, costing Unitywater millions of dollars each year,” Creevey said.
“Kenilworth is our first sewage treatment plant to be energy neutral. It’s exciting that we can offset the energy needed to run the plant with the solar panels.”
Unitywater has also added floating wetlands to treatment ponds at the site. The plants sit on a raft that has been engineered to support hydroponic growth, taking up nutrients and sediments from the wastewater.
This water is then used to irrigate a forest that was specifically planted for this purpose.
Unitywater Treatment Services Planning Engineer Ramraj Kulkarni said the wetlands would help reduce nitrogen and suspended solids in the water, and lower the pH.
“Wetlands are amazing resources that act as nature’s kidneys,” Kulkarni said.
“They can help us protect the environment and also improve water quality in our creeks and rivers.”
The Kenilworth project wasn’t the first solar solution for Unitywater. It flicked the switch on a 95 kW solar system at its Northern Service Centre in Maroochydore in 2015, which it said would generate 74% of the facility’s needs and save about $40,000 a year.