Australian university goes 100 per cent solar

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Sydney, Jan 22: In what is claimed to be a first for any university, University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia has inked a 15-year agreement to get 100 per cent of its energy supplied by photovoltaic solar energy.

The agreement with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy inked last month will allow UNSW – among the world’s top 50 universities with a strong pedagogy in scientific and technological research – to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020.

UNSW Sydney announced a tripartite arrangement with contract partners Maoneng Australia (Maoneng) and Origin Energy (Origin) for an offsite Solar PV Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (Solar PPA). The solar supply agreement with Maoneng is the first of its kind in Australia – bringing together a retailer, developer and corporate. UNSW believes it is the first university worldwide to go fully energy carbon neutral with 100 per cent of its needs supplied by solar photovoltaics (PV).

“This landmark initiative is an exciting step towards realising UNSW’s goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020 and reflects our commitment to making a positive global impact,” said UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs in a press release.

“The Solar PPA arrangement will allow UNSW to secure carbon emission-free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel-sourced supplies.

“It is also highly significant and a testament to the world-class research carried out here at UNSW, that a technology which we played a leading role in developing is now being used to provide the university with a renewable source of emissions-free energy,” he said.

The 142kW array is part of the 692kW of solar PV arrays currently installed across rooftops at the UNSW Kensington campus.

The agreement, which was signed on December 14, 2017, will see UNSW purchase up to 124,000 MWh of renewable energy per annum from Maoneng’s Sunraysia Solar Farm near Balranald in south-western NSW, meeting UNSW’s annual energy requirement starting in 2019.

A three-year retail firming contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer, to manage the intermittency of solar production.

NSW Minister for Energy Don Harwin said the agreement was evidence of UNSW’s leadership in renewables.

In December 2017, UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering was awarded 12 projects with a total cash grant value of more than $16 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Five of those projects are focusing on the further development of UNSW’s Advanced Hydrogenation technology to improve world record commercial solar cells.