University of Newcastle signs 100% renewable electricity deal

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Australia’s universities continue to strive for ambitious renewable energy goals. The latest to step up its game is New South Wales’ University of Newcastle, which has committed to powering two of its campuses solely with renewable electricity.

This will be achieved based on a deal inked with Snowy Hydros’ subsidiary Red Energy for its new 100% renewable package – solar and wind energy, underpinned by hydro.

The move is a direct response to feedback from students, staff and stakeholders who wanted to see the University do its bit to tackle climate change through increased investment in renewable energy.   

“In addition to making a positive environmental impact, the new contract delivers costs savings that will enable us to continue investing in strategic initiatives,” said Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Alex Zelinsky AO.

The contract commences from the beginning of next year, with the renewables-sourced electricity provided from January 1 2020, once Red Energy has finished building its solar, wind and hydro capacity.

“This landmark ESA (Energy Supply Agreement) with the University of Newcastle represents one of the first direct off-takes for ‘firmed’ renewable electricity of this type,” said Paul Broad, Managing Director of Snowy Hydro.

Under the deal, Red Energy will supply wind and solar power “firmed” by on-demand hydro from the mighty Snowy Scheme.

In a major renewable energy tender in November, Snowy Hydro contracted 888 MW of wind and solar generation under eight PPAs. The projects located across NSW and Victoria are expected to generate about 2.8 TWh of energy annually after they come online within the next two years.

Back then, Snowy Hydro announced plans to to use its existing hydro, gas and diesel assets to ‘firm’ up intermittent renewable generation and thus ensure energy is available when needed. It explained the process as follows:

“In simple terms, ‘firming’ works by transforming intermittent energy into reliable energy so it’s available on-demand when a customer needs it. While the energy output of individual projects varies, Snowy Hydro’s power stations can work in combination with wind and solar, creating ‘firm’ reliable energy.“

The partnership with Red Energy complements the University’s ongoing rooftop solar PV commitments. 

It has installed 75 kW system atop the library building at its Ourimbah campus, and 80 kW on buildings in Tamworth, Port Macquarie and Taree. The University also plans to roll out a $4 million 2 MW system, which will see over 7000 panels installed across 25 buildings at Callaghan with additional panels also installed at Ourimbah.

The University of Newcastle is not the first Australian university to commit to 100% renewables.

The University of New South Wales is set to become the nation’s first 100% solar powered university. It signed a 15-year PPA to purchase up to 124,000 MWh of renewable energy per annum from the 200 MW Sunraysia Solar Farm, alongside a three year “firming contract” with Origin, which will ensure electricity supply if the solar output falls short.

Also, Monash University is developing a 4 MW PV + 1 MWh battery microgrid to cover 100% of the campuses’ electricity needs with renewable energy.