UNSW to be powered by 100% solar energy

Thursday, 25 January, 2018

UNSW to be powered by 100% solar energy

UNSW Sydney has announced a tripartite arrangement with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to have 100% of its energy supplied by solar photovoltaics (PV).

Described as a world first for the university sector, the off-site solar PV corporate power purchase agreement will allow UNSW to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020.

The 15-year agreement, which was signed on 14 December, 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.

UNSW believes it is the first university worldwide to go fully energy carbon neutral, with 100% of its needs supplied by solar 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.

“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.

“Over the past six months, UNSW has collaborated with our contract partners Maoneng and Origin to develop a Solar PPA model that leads the way in renewable energy procurement and reflects our commitment to global impact outlined in our 2025 Strategy.

“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.”

The tripartite arrangement was supported by Norton Rose Fulbright as legal advisor, with energy management consulting firm Energy Action providing energy market analysis and advice.

“This groundbreaking agreement provides UNSW with a direct line of sight over the source of renewables supply, reduced emissions and greater certainty around prices over the next 15 years,” said Energy Action CEO Ivan Slavich. “We are seeing a strong trend amongst corporate energy users turning to PPAs as a way to hedge against future pricing movements and to meet their green energy objectives.”

“By collaborating with Origin and UNSW and maintaining an open dialogue, we have created a corporate PPA template that we believe not only works for UNSW, but can be replicated and tailored to fulfil the specific needs of each customer,” added Maoneng Project Finance Director Kevin Chen.

The Sunraysia Solar Farm development will include a visitor’s centre and weather monitoring system, with UNSW staff and students having site visit access for data sharing, research and case study purposes. An annual financial scholarship worth $10,000 is included in the Solar PPA for students studying at Balranald Central School to attend UNSW, along with a series of presentations from UNSW to the school both on-site and via webinar on renewables technology and industry.

Construction of the Sunraysia Solar Farm is due to begin later this year, with completion and the start of solar energy generation expected in the second quarter of 2019. Origin will be providing electricity to UNSW during the solar farm construction.

Image caption: UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs. The 142 kW array is part of the 692 kW of solar PV arrays currently installed across rooftops at the UNSW Kensington campus.

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