UTS seeks to unlock urban roof space for solar farms

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The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has negotiated a deal with commercial property giant Dexus to install a 1 MW rooftop solar system across the Lakes Business Park in the southern Sydney suburb of Botany where it leases space for its Tech Lab research facility.

UTS green infrastructure project manager Jonathan Prendergast said the university will install and own the 1 MW rooftop solar system after negotiating a 23-year rooftop licence with business park manager Dexus. The system will deliver clean electricity to the UTS Tech Lab with excess energy exported to the grid to meet local demand.

“Although UTS is a tenant in Botany, we’ve reached a long-term agreement with Dexus to cover all available roof space in the Dexus development with solar panels,” he said.

The system, which is nearing completion, will comprise 2,500 solar panels and once operational will generate about 1,400 MWh of renewable energy a year, enough to power the equivalent of 255 homes.

Prendergast said the rooftop project demonstrates an innovative way to develop and finance solar power at a time when the state urgently needs more energy generation capacity.

“All those times you’ve flown in or out of Sydney Airport, over the top of all those sprawling warehouse roofs, they are solar farms just waiting to happen,” he said. “Solar is now cost effective enough that it can be installed on Sydney rooftops as power stations, not just for reducing demand of the host.”

Australia is a world leader in the uptake of residential rooftop solar but Prendergast said it’s not possible in every situation and the Botany project shows how to maximise the potential of urban and industrial roof space.

“Our CBDs, for example, are full of high-rise buildings and limited roof space, with high energy demand. Often tenants find getting solar on their rooftops limited due to complex negotiations with the landlord or short-term leasing,” he said.

Dexus’ sustainability general manager Rob Sims said the property group was excited to support UTS in “transforming our Lord Street roof space into an urban power station”.

Sims said collaborating with customers on renewable energy is one of the ways the group, which manages an Australian property portfolio valued at $32.1 billion, is pursuing to unlock the potential of its roof space as it progresses the rollout of solar PV systems across its assets.

The Botany project is the latest renewable energy project for UTS which has been developing rooftop and offsite solar systems for nearly 10 years to help meet its goals of being a renewable-powered university.

The university has installed rooftop solar systems on buildings at its main campus in the inner-city suburb of Ultimo, and signed a power purchase agreements with the Singleton Solar Farm in the state’s Hunter Valley and the Orange Solar Farm in the Central Tablelands region.

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