Solar panels will supplement energy consumption at Hunter Water’s Raymond Terrace Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW).

The site is the latest Hunter Water facility to adopt solar-generated electricity to power that aims to reduce impact on the environment and decrease ongoing electricity costs.

The investment of more than $15 million over the next few years aligns with an aspirational goal of net zero emissions by 2030.

Kurri Kurri water treatment works solar upgrade nearing completion. Img: Hunter Water.

The Renewable Energy Project is being rolled out under a phased approach, with stage one to produce a combined 1.2 megawatts of solar power. Since mid-last year, Hunter Water has delivered a 100-kilowatt system at Branxton WWTW, while a 600-kilowatt system at Morpeth WWTW and a 300-kilowatt system at Kurri Kurri WWTW (pictured above) are near completion.

Stage one continues with contractors Downer installing a 420-panel 200-kilowatt system at the Raymond Terrace site. Paxton WWTW (40-kilowatt), Boulder Bay WWTW (circa 40-kilowatt) and Tarro depot (17-kilowatt) are also progressing.

Hunter Water Group Manager Asset Solutions, Justin Watts, said the investment would deliver more than six megawatts of solar power in total as part of a wider $685 million capital works program over the next four years.

Electricity is one of our major expenses as we run pumps and treatment systems 24 hours a day, and it accounts for up to 10 per cent of our operating costs,” said Justin Watts, Group Manager Asset Solutions.

Solar-generated electricity is one of several opportunities available that can help to reduce these costs, and reduce carbon emissions. In 2020, we installed a 100-kilowatt trial system at Branxton WWTW, consisting of both roof and ground-mounted solar panels.

From this pilot project we learnt a lot about optimum system size, how to integrate solar into our existing assets, the maintenance requirements and, importantly, the impact of solar on the way we buy electricity.

Hunter Water will apply what we have learnt to continually improve the solar roll out at priority sites across our network, with construction now well advanced under stage one.”

Stage two of the Renewable Energy Project has already started, with contractors ready to expand the array at Branxton WWTW by installing an additional 200-kilowatt, ground-mounted system alongside the existing structure.

Further work under stage two, which is expected to be completed by mid-next year, will deliver a 100-kilowatt system at Cessnock WWTW and an 800-kilowatt system at Shortland WWTW.

Work at most sites will be carried out on Hunter Water-owned land, with minimal disruption to the local community.