Scottish Water switches on ‘solar giant’ at treatment site in East Dunbartonshire

Scottish Water has invested £5m to install 8,448 ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) panels at its most energy-intensive site, claiming that the “solar giant” will assist with the company’s efforts to reach net-zero emissions by 2040.

Scottish Water switches on ‘solar giant’ at treatment site in East Dunbartonshire

Scottish Water claims the site will generate 4.45 GWh of energy annually

The new onsite installation has seen almost 8,500 PV panels installed at Balmore Water Treatment Works in East Dunbartonshire. The new system, which is now online, will provide 19% of the facility’s electricity needs, saving around 1,100 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually.

Scottish Water claims the site will generate 4.45 GWh of energy annually – enough to power around 1,500 standard UK homes.

The Balmore site, which serves more than 560,000 people, has also been fitted with three electric vehicle (EV) charging points. These charging points will support the company’s efforts to transition its 1,600 fleet of vans and tankers to clean electricity.

Commenting on the announcement, outgoing chief executive of Scottish Water, Douglas Millican, said: “This PV scheme at Balmore Water Treatment Works near Torrance is a prime example of how we can use existing Scottish Water assets to adapt, invest, and innovate, in order to support a flourishing Scotland. It is a hugely important milestone for us in our net zero journey.

“All of Scottish Water’s activities are energy-intensive and drive emissions which is why investing in renewable power technologies is embedded in our Net Zero Routemap. We must continue to grow new capabilities and change our behaviour to eliminate all emissions associated with our activities – while delivering excellent service and great value to our customers.”

Previously, Scottish Water had invested in onsite solar solutions at its Dunfermline Wastewater Treatment Works. The site had a  231kW solar PV system installed by Scottish Water’s commercial subsidiary Scottish Water Horizons in 2020, investing £300,000 in the 784-panel system. At the time, this was Scottish Water’s biggest solar installation.

The system is able to generate 0.2GWh of energy on an annual basis, equivalent to powering 55 homes for the year. The system accounts for 10% of the electricity required to power the facility, which serves 81,000 customers in Dunfermline, Inverkeithing, Dalgety Bay, Crossgates, Rosyth and Kingseat.

In total, 21 MW of solar PV power has been installed at 62 Scottish Water sites, generating 17.2 GWh of renewable energy every year.

Innovation drive

Last year, Scottish Water confirmed it was funding a programme aimed at accelerating the transition to net-zero and maximising the positive social outcomes of the transition.

The Hydro Nation Chair Research and Innovation Programme convened academics, the water industry, policymakers and local communities to develop and implement innovative technologies that will cut emissions in Scotland.

Scottish Water claimed that the programme would enable the sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 and would also see water firms utilise sequestering initiatives to go beyond net-zero and reduce more emissions than it generates. The Scottish Government is notably working towards a 2045 net-zero target – five years earlier than the rest of the UK.

Elsewhere, the UK’s nine largest water and sewerage providers – none of which are based in Scotland – are working towards a joint net-zero by 2030 roadmap that was first published in August 2019.

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