As its campus has grown substantially over the last decade, the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS) has been looking to reduce its environmental impact and the additional load that places on the grid, installing solar panels on its own rooftops, as well as contracting directly with solar farms in regional NSW.
It has now taken the biggest solar plunge to date by singing a power purchase agreement to source half its annual electricity demand from the 32 MW Walgett Solar Farm.
“By entering into a long-term agreement, UTS will better manage its long-term energy costs and cap its exposure to price rises,” UTS Green Infrastructure Project Manager Jonathan Prendergast said.
This is the third solar PPA for UTS in its impressive renewable energy portfolio, against the backdrop of a growing number of Australian universities stepping up their solar commitments.
In 2015, UTS inked what it claims to be Australia’s first large energy customer to contract directly for offsite solar back contracting with the Singleton Solar Farm near Sydney, followed by another PPA with the Orange Solar Farm.
In addition, it has been investing heavily in on-site solar on its campus, having installed six solar systems on building rooftops.
UTS also has plans for further solar development in 2019 and beyond, as it strives to reduce emissions 30% by 2020/21 based on 2007 levels.
On the back of the PPA, the Walgett Solar Farm, fully owned by Australian renewables developer Epuron, is now able to start construction.
“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,” Epuron Director Martin Poole said.
“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.”
The $40 million project is slated to start feeding electricity into the grid mid-next year.
The project was approved by the NSW government in mid last year, as one of the 10 large-scale solar projects that were given the green light in 2017 – twice the number of projects approved the year before.
According to Epuron, the project is likely to be built in two stages with an initial stage of around 15 MW supported by the PPA with the UTS.