The University of NSW has signed an agreement to become fully solar powered.
UNSW has signed a 15-year agreement with solar company Maoneng and energy company Origin for a solar corporate power purchase agreement (PPA).
The agreement will see solar energy from Maoneng’s Sunraysia solar farm provide 100 per cent of the campus’ energy.
Sunraysia, which will be constructed near Balranald in NSW, will be the largest solar farm in , generating at least 530,000-megawatt hours of electricity annually.
UNSW will purchase 124,000-megawatt hours, or close to a quarter, of all electricity generated from Sunraysia.
A three-year retail firming contract – to provide additional power if solar energy generation is low – was also signed with Origin.
UNSW president and vice chancellor Ian Jacobs said the agreement was part of the university’s goal to become energy carbon neutral by 2020.
“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,” he said.
“This agreement reflects the thought leadership coming from UNSW on climate change,” Professor Jacobs told Fairfax Media.
While Mr Jacobs declined to say how this new agreement would impact the university’s power bills, he said the decision was in part financially driven.
“It’s a highly competitive agreement financially,” he said.
“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.”
Energy Action, which provided energy market analysis during the agreement process, said this PPA was creating a foundation for energy pricing certainty for UNSW.
“This 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,” Energy Action chief executive Ivan Slavich said.
“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.”
As part of the agreement, a $10,000 annual financial scholarship has also been created for local Balranald students to attend UNSW.
UNSW is not the only university aiming to become energy carbon neutral.
Monash University has a similar program, utilising wind power, while Charles Sturt University has achieved carbon neutrality through the purchase of carbon offsets. The University of Tasmania has also committed to becoming carbon neutral.