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Solar energy for wastewater an exciting landmark

Published: 3 July 2019

Watercare has entered the solar energy market and installed solar panels at the Pukekohe Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The 400 ground-mounted solar panels project, creating renewable energy, is the first project of its kind for Watercare. The panels help power a pump station, which sends wastewater around one kilometre away to be processed.

Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram says that two other solar energy projects to be installed and are due to be up and running later this year.

“Watercare’s business is intrinsically linked to the natural environment. We integrate sustainability into everything we do and is key to our role as a trusted community and iwi partner.

"Watercare is committed to operating in a sustainable way. It’s at the heart of what we do, and this is our first foray into solar energy. It’s an exciting landmark.”

The panels, provided by Mercury Solar, are expected to result in savings of up to $20,000 annually.

Two other solar arrays are currently being installed at the Wellsford Wastewater Treatment Plant and at the Redoubt Road Reservoir in Manukau. The Redoubt Road reservoir project will also feature a Tesla Powerpack, so that the solar electricity can be stored for use at night-time and is expected to see a 75 per cent reduction in grid use.

Watercare - planning for the future and a changing climate

Watercare also recently launched its climate strategy. The strategy has two broad focuses - becoming a low carbon organisation and adapting the organisation to be more resilient in a changing climate.

The solar power projects are just one initiative. Others include a native revegetation programme in the Hunua Ranges (140,000 native trees planted so far); conversion of 30 per cent of pool fleet cars to electric vehicles and a commitment to energy neutrality at two major wastewater treatment plants through energy generation from biogas.

Long-term, Watercare is aiming for NetZero emissions by 2050, aims to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by the year 2030 and reduce infrastructure construction emissions by 40 per cent by the year 2025.

Quick facts about the Pukekohe solar panels

  • The Pukekohe solar array was installed in December 2018 and commissioned in February 2019
  • A long sunny summer period has seen the panels operate effectively generating more than 54,000 kWh so far– enough to power seven average NZ households for a year
  • The Pukekohe solar panels will see a reduction of nine tonnes of CO2 emissions annually
  • The Pukekohe array is currently one of the largest solar arrays in NZ
  • The 305 Watt solar panels each have an expected lifespan of 25-years
  • Solar energy use in NZ has grown rapidly recently as manufacturing costs of panels have plummeted over the last five years.  

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