UTS commitment kick-starts new solar farm
- UTS has given a kick-start to a new solar farm in regional NSW, via a long-term commitment to purchase solar energy.
- The innovative deal supports our commitment to sustainable energy while also providing financial benefits to the university.
UTS has confirmed a deal that will kick-start a new $40 million solar farm in regional NSW, signing a long-term commitment to buy a significant amount of the energy generated on site.
The deal is a major component of the university’s innovative approach to energy management, which fuses a meaningful commitment to sustainability with smart financial management. It demonstrates how large organisations can use their purchasing power to provide the surety needed to get new renewable projects off the ground.
Through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), UTS has committed to purchase the equivalent of half of our annual electricity demand from the soon-to-be-built Walgett Solar Farm for 12 years. This gives the solar project developers Epuron the surety they need to source further finance and start construction, while UTS will benefit from a competitive fixed ongoing energy cost with the potential for substantial savings over the life of the contract.
“We are committed to finding sustainable solutions to reduce our environmental impact,” UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs explains. “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.”
Many Australian universities, including UTS, have already made substantial investments in solar projects. What makes this deal groundbreaking is the work undertaken by the UTS sustainability team to ensure that a brand new solar project would become a reality.
“We are proud of the systemic changes that we have made as this model can be adopted by other universities and organisations to create more sustainable solutions to energy usage,” says Professor Brungs.
With our campus growing substantially over the past decade, under the $1 billion-plus Campus Master Plan redevelopment, UTS has been taking responsibility for the additional load placed on the electricity grid by looking for opportunities to power more buildings and facilities with clean and sustainable sources of energy.
Substantial investment has been made in on-site solar across six UTS buildings and there are plans for further solar development in 2019 and beyond. However, the restraints of our city campus inspired an innovative approach to sustainable energy management. In an Australian first, in 2015 we became the first large energy customer to contract directly for off-site solar. This new deal adds to the renewable energy being fed into the grid thanks to UTS.
“Walgett Solar Farm is a fantastic project,” says 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.”
The Walgett Solar Farm will produce about 63,000 MWh a year of electricity once fully built, enough to power 9,600 NSW homes.
Currently only around 4% of electricity used in NSW comes from solar, while we import up to a quarter of our energy from other states. There is a lot of room for further growth of the solar sector, and UTS is proud to pioneer new initiatives that have real impact on development of renewable energy projects.