Launch of the smart solar sewer system

Victorian-government owned utility South East Water is working to commercialise an integrated solar-powered pressure sewer system suitable for areas with unreliable or non-existent electricity supplies.

The first of the systems, which also provides an alternative to standard septic tanks, was last month installed and commissioned at a community sports ground at Tootgarook on the Mornington Peninsula. The Truemans Road Recreation Reserve had an ageing septic system that was at risk of polluting groundwater, and has no reliable electricity supply.

The project comprises solar PV panels, a battery for energy storage and a pressure sewer holding tank, managed remotely by the authority’s OneBox technology. The energy is used to power the technology and also pump wastewater from the holding tank to a reticulated network that leads to a water recycling plant.

“The solar-powered solution ensures the reserve can continue to be enjoyed by the many sports clubs and community groups based there,” Mornington Peninsula Shire Council mayor Bev Colomb said.

“It’s a win for community and the environment, and we’re delighted to have played a role in proving this ground-breaking technology and welcome working together on future innovative projects.”

Research and development manager at South East Water, David Bergmann, said the system’s 320-watt solar panels from LG are new to the Australian market.

The panels are 28 per cent more efficient than standard domestic 250-watt photovoltaic panels, he said, as they capture energy from sunlight both as it enters the panel and from light that is reflected back out from the panel.

The battery system is a lithium iron phosphorus battery developed and manufactured by a Frankston company, MagEfekt.

Mr Bergmann said it was a deliberate choice to support a local business.

The authority will now seek to deliver the integrated package of intelligent waste water systems powered by renewable energy and storage through its commercial entity, Iota Services.

“We will offer it to others where electricity is unreliable or expensive to install,” he said.

There are already talks underway with a number of interested parties in Victoria, he said, including local councils.

The plan is to deliver it for projects within the state first, then present the offer to other states and also overseas locations as a package that has demonstrated its effectiveness.

“First we solve our own problems [by developing technology],” he said.

In this case, it had identified locations within its service area that had septic systems and power problems. Once it has developed a solution, Iota then takes it to a broader audience.

The intelligent pressure sewer network itself is already a product the commercial enterprise has had some offshore success with, he said.

Christchurch in New Zealand installed one as part of the earthquake rebuild, as Christchurch Council believed it would be the most resilient solution in terms of seismic events.

Following the recent quake, Mr Bergmann said there have been no reports of system failure.

The Iota entity also helps the authority, he said, by creating a revenue stream that delivers a return to its sole shareholder, the Victorian government.