UNSW signs landmark solar energy deal

UNSW president and vice-chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs

UNSW Sydney is well on its way to becoming fully solar-powered after signing a landmark solar energy power purchase agreement (PPA).

The university has announced a tripartite arrangement with contract partners Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy for an offsite solar PV corporate power purchase agreement.

The 15-year solar supply agreement is the first of its kind in Australia – bringing together a retailer, developer and corporate – and will allow UNSW to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020.

UNSW president and vice-chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said the university is the first worldwide to go fully energy carbon neutral with 100 per cent of its needs supplied from solar PV.

“This landmark initiative is an exciting step towards realising UNSW’s goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020 and reflects our commitment to making a positive global impact,” Professor Jacobs 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.

“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.”

The agreement, which was signed on December 14, 2017, will see UNSW purchase up to 124,000MWh of renewable energy a year from Maoneng’s Sunraysia Solar Farm located near Balranald in NSW, meeting UNSW’s annual energy requirement starting in 2019.

A three-year retail-firming contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer, to manage the intermittency of solar production.

NSW Minister for Energy Don Harwin said the agreement was evidence of UNSW’s leadership in renewables.

“Already a world leader in solar PV technologies, this agreement is yet another demonstration of UNSW’s commitment to a clean energy future,” Mr Harwin said.

“I congratulate UNSW for entering into this agreement, it’s not only great for the environment but it will deliver jobs and investment in regional NSW”.

Last month, UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering was awarded 12 projects with a total cash grant value of over $16 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The tripartite arrangement for UNSW was supported by Norton Rose Fulbright as legal advisors who specialise in PPAs, along with energy management consulting firm, Energy Action, who provided energy market analysis and advice.

“This ground-breaking 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 CEO Ivan Slavich said.

“We are seeing a strong trend among corporate energy users turning to PPAs as a way to hedge against future pricing movements and to meet their green energy objectives.”

The Sunraysia Solar Farm development will include a Visitor’s Centre and Weather Monitoring System, with UNSW staff and students having site visit access for data sharing, research and case study purposes.

An annual financial scholarship worth $10,000 is included in the Solar PPA for local students studying at Balranald Central School to attend UNSW, along with a series of presentations from UNSW to the school both onsite and via webinar on renewables technology and industry.

Construction of the Sunraysia Solar Farm is due to commence later this year, with completion and the start of solar energy generation expected in the second quarter of 2019.

Origin will be providing electricity to UNSW during the solar farm construction.