Nation’s top solar university commits to 100% renewable energy

UNSWUniversity of New South Wales commits to 100% renewable energy

The nation’s top solar university research hub, the University of New South Wales (UNSW), in Sydney, has announced it will switch to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020.

Underpinning the goal is a 15-year power-purchase-agreement with the Sunraysia solar farm in western NSW.

The PPA is a tripartite arrangement with project developer Maoneng and Origin Energy. The agreement will see UNSW purchase the 124,000 MWh solar electricity required to meet its yearly energy needs.

Solar university: UNSW Vice Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs with solar PV panels installed across rooftops at the UNSW Sydney campus.

UNSW Vice Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs with solar PV panels installed across rooftops at the UNSW Sydney campus. Image: UNSW

Origin has also signed a three-year firming contract to manage the intermittency of solar generation.

Announced last year, the University believes the deal is a world first for the education sector.

“This landmark initiative is an exciting step towards realising UNSW’s goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020,” said Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs.

Expanding solar capacity towards UNSW’s zero carbon goal

The commitment is part of the UNSW’s Environmental Sustainability Plan 2019-21 (ESP).

In 2018, the University expanded its onsite solar PV capacity to 800 kW – enough to power 160 homes. The ESP will then expand this capacity to 1.2 MW of rooftop solar power by 2022.

A 500 kWh Telsa Powerpack battery system – the first ever installed on an Australian university campus – will store excess energy from the expanded systems. The industrial-scale battery is part of a ten-year energy research trial between UNSW and Transgrid.

Apart from saving the environment, and helping the university reach its climate goals, these measures will also save UNSW around $300,000 per year in electricity costs.

In the same way, households who choose rooftop solar panels, paired with battery storage, can expect to save up to $2,000 each year on electricity bills. Plus, as prices rise, the payback time on a solar power system also falls dramatically.

UNSW: Global leader as a solar university

Researchers from UNSW have long been world leaders in pushing the barriers of solar efficiency. Currently, around 50 per cent of all solar panels sold globally use UNSW-designed technology.

The University also houses the Australian Photovoltaics Institute, developer of the SunSpot app. This online tool enables users to calculate their rooftop solar potential with spatial mapping.

Furthering its reputation as a solar university, it is also home to Professor Martin Green, winner of the Global Energy Prize 2018 and Australia’s celebrated ‘Father of Photovoltaics’.

Green’s research has set world record solar efficiencies across many types of solar cells.