There's a renewable energy arms race going on in academia. UNSW just blew the competition out the water.
Students have long been at the forefront of pushing their institutions to divest from fossil fuels. As part of that push, they've also encouraged them to embrace renewables too. But few universities have gone as far as the University of New South Wales in Australia, which just inked an ambitious deal to get 100% of its energy from solar power. (Note that the press materials say "energy", not just electricity!)
The deal, signed late last year, will see the university buy up to 124,000 MWh of renewable energy a year from Maoneng’s Sunraysia Solar Farm near Balranald in south-western NSW starting in 2019. That figure will be equivalent to the university's annual energy requirement and will mean the institution meets its previously set goal of going 100% carbon neutral on energy by 2020. Furthermore, the university is making a big deal out of the fact that the prices it has secured are extremely competitive with those of conventional fossil fuels.
Here's how UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs described the significance of the deal:
“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."
To get a sense of just how big the Sunraysia Solar Farm is going to be, check out this video mock up below. Let's hope that many more institutions follow in UNSW's footsteps.