UTS signs PPA with Walgett Solar Farm
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has helped kickstart a new $40 million solar farm in regional NSW, signing a commitment to buy energy generated on site.
The 32 MW Walgett Solar Farm is being developed in stages by NSW-based renewable energy company Epuron, with construction expected to begin soon and first generation to commence in mid-2019. Once fully built, it will produce about 63,000 MWh of electricity per year — enough to power 9600 NSW homes.
UTS’s campus has grown substantially over the past decade and has been taking responsibility for the additional load that places on the electricity grid by looking for opportunities to power more buildings and facilities with sustainable sources of energy. It has also been investing heavily in on-site solar on its campus, having so far installed six solar systems on building rooftops, and in 2015 the university became the first large energy customer to contract directly for off-site solar.
“We are committed to finding sustainable solutions to reduce our environmental impact,” said UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs. “But we don’t just want to create improvement for ourselves — we want to change whole systems to enable others to also improve their sustainability. UTS has spent the last couple of years researching and creating an effective energy model to help reduce emissions while also supporting the continued growth of the renewable energy sector.”
Now UTS has signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Walgett Solar Farm for the equivalent of half of the university’s annual electricity demand. As well as allowing the solar farm to proceed, the agreement means UTS will benefit from a competitive fixed ongoing energy cost, with the potential for substantial savings over the life of the contract.
“For our renewable projects to be able to attract finance and get built, it’s crucial to find suitable partners to become committed customers and provide certainty,” said Epuron Director Martin Poole. “With the UTS commitment to purchase our clean energy output, the Walgett Solar Farm can move ahead and we look forward to commencing construction in the coming months.”
“Walgett Solar Farm is a fantastic project,” added UTS Green Infrastructure Project Manager Jonathan Prendergast. “The area has high levels of sun exposure, even in winter, so it will generate consistently across the year.
“While much of Australia’s rooftop solar capacity is on houses, and therefore in population centres, projects like Walgett Solar Farm spread our solar capacity geographically, providing more consistent solar generation that’s less subject to local weather patterns.”
By entering into a long-term agreement, UTS will better manage its long-term energy costs and cap its exposure to price rises, Prendergast said.
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