UNSW Solar – uni to go fully solar powered

UNSW Solar has taken another huge step forward – the University of New South Wales has signed a 15-year corporate PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to become 100% solar powered, thanks to Maoneng‘s Sunraysia solar plant.

UNSW Solar 

The Sunraysia solar farm, which will be Australia’s biggest solar farm, is planned to commence construction in April or May of this year, at a cost of $275 million. It will generate at least 530,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year, of which UNSW will purchase 124,000 – almost a quarter. They signed an agreement on December 14, 2017, which will run for 15 years. A three year ‘retail firming’ contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer. This will help manage intermittency of solar production.

UNSW Solar - UNSW President Ian Jacobs (source: newsroom.unsw.edu.au)
UNSW Solar – UNSW President Ian Jacobs (source: newsroom.unsw.edu.au)

UNSW president and vice chancellor Ian Jacobs discussed the partnership with Fairfax, advising that it would comprise a key part of making UNSW’s entire operation 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.

Mr Jacobs wouldn’t provide specifics on pricing, but did note that it will be helpful to UNSW in a financial sense:

“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, a company who assisted during the tender by with energy market analysis, noted that the PPA would help UNSW have greater clarity on their future electricity spends and not be as vulnerable to electricity price fluctuations:

“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.

Kelly Davies, Senior Consultant at Norton Rose Fulbright, was quoted on the university press release as saying: “UNSW is a true leader of innovation. The PPA market has been extremely dynamic in the last 12 months and deals like UNSW’s have been critical in driving real change in the way universities and other users procure energy.”

UNSW have also been the recipient of a few solar grants from ARENA over the past years so the idea of them using renewable energy to research and upgrade renewable energy is certainly a palatable one and it’s amazing to see so much energy from the Sunraysia Solar Plant already accounted for! 

Australian solar cell research gets $29.2m grant.

Australian solar cell research has received a $29.2m grant from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) – with 11 of the 22 projects currently sponsored associated with UNSW, who has been leading the way in Australia’s solar research for over 40 years. 

Australian Solar Cell Research

ARENA chief exec Ivor Frischknecht was quoted on the UNSW website talking about Australia’s solar research and how ARENA have been able to help with funding projects:

“In this funding round, the candidates and the calibre was so high, we actually increased the total funding we awarded to nearly $30 million,” he said. “This research will improve the technological and commercial readiness of new innovation in solar PV cells and modules, enhance Australia’s position as world-leaders in solar PV R&D and address Australian-specific conditions.”

ARENA’s latest funding round has seen UNSW granted $16.43m for 11 projects. UNSW’s research partner in ACAP (the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics), ANU, received  $7.89m for six projects, the CSIRO received $3.31m and Monash University got $1.59m.


Australian Solar Cell Research - UNSW's Solar Industrial Research Facility
Australian Solar Cell Research – UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (source: unsw.edu.au)

UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) was created in 2011 as a $16m ‘turnkey pilot line manufacturing facility’ which allows UNSW to create silicon solar cells from lab processes to factory ready industrial processes. According to the UNSW website, architects Woods-Bagot modelled the outside of the building to mimic the pattern of multi-crystalline silicon solar cells.

Today, it’s a $30m facility aimed at advancing solar power technology – bringing UNSW’s solar tech to industry partners across the world. SIRF has brought over $8 billion in benefits to Australia over the past ten years – with gains of energy efficiency forecast to save Australians $750m over the next decade. It’s been the recipient of myriad ARENA grants and is a great example of Australia’s commitment to solar power research. 

Dean of UNSW Science Emma Johnston, discussing the grants, said: “At UNSW we are proud to have a long history of world-leading solar innovations dating back to the 1970s. But research is only one part of the puzzle. Equally as important is translating these world-leading ideas into commercially viable products.

“The SIRF facility we stand in today is evidence of this commitment – a place where we work hand in hand with industry to deliver solar solutions for Australia and the world,” Dr. Johnston added.