The University of Queensland has become one of Australia’s first universities to successfully make the switch to 100 per cent renewables, following the official opening of the 64MW Warwick solar farm.
The $125 million project was officially opened on Friday and will commence supplying power to university campuses, alongside solar projects installed at Gatton and St Lucia.
University of Queensland vice-chancellor professor Peter Høj said that it was important that Universities showed leadership in the transition to clean energy, but recognised that it also provided the university with an opportunity to cut its energy costs.
“The Warwick Solar farm is first and foremost an act of leadership that demonstrates that a transition to renewables can be done at scale, that’s practicable and makes economic sense,” professor Høj said.
“The power generated at Warwick, in addition to seven megawatts produced at Gatton and St Lucia, will make us the first major university in the world to offset 100 per cent of our electricity use with renewable power produced from our own assets.”
“This isn’t just an economic choice; industry and government look to us for expertise and leadership in renewable technologies and this asset will support a wide range of current and emerging research and industry partnerships across a broad array of disciplines,” Høj added.
The solar farm is expected to produce around 160GWh of power each year, effectively reducing coal consumption by more than 60,000 tonnes annually.
The university will incorporate the solar farm into its teaching, providing engineering and science studies with an opportunity to use data from the solar farm for research, and to allow for on-site learning about renewable energy systems.
“Many of our Engineering students have been fascinated to learn about UQ’s own operational moves into renewable energy, including the Warwick Solar Farm,” faculty of engineering, architecture and information technology executive dean professor Vicki Chen said
“The Master of Sustainable Energy students also see it as a privilege to see UQ’s own renewable energy assets up close and to work hands-on with our own data.”
The Warwick solar farm was fully energised in June and was officially opened on Friday by Queensland state development minister Kate Jones and energy minister Anthony Lynham, who welcomed the ongoing investment in Queensland’s solar sector.
“Queensland is already a world leader in the take-up of household solar rooftops and this is another global energy title,” Jones said.
“The global coronavirus pandemic is impacting economies around the world and Queensland is no different. Because we’re managing the health response, we have started delivering Queensland’s plan for economic recovery.”
“Part of that plan is backing our renewable energy sector because it is driving down emissions, putting downward pressure on power prices and creating jobs,” Jones added.
Great to be at the opening of the University of Queensland Warwick Solar Farm with @katejonesqld . The first uni in the world to be 100% renewable & another 64MW of renewable energy towards Qld’s target of 50% by 2030. @UQ_News #warwick #qldpol #qldjobs pic.twitter.com/SDZmqoqC7p
— Dr Anthony Lynham MP (@DrAnthonyLynham) July 17, 2020
Around 100 jobs were created during the construction of the Warwick solar farm, and an additional six full time jobs will remain engaged with the project during its operation to undertake maintenance and to manage site facilities.
Queensland energy minister said that strong investment in the states renewable energy capacity was growing, and that Queensland was on track to reach the government’s target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030.
“Over the past five years under Labor, 39 large-scale renewable energy projects have commenced operations or are financially committed, creating 5700 jobs in construction,” Lynham said.
“Queensland now has 6600 MW of large-scale renewable generation either operational or committed. We are forecast to reach 20 per cent renewable generation this year and on target to reach our commitment to 50 per cent by 2030.”
The success follows similar commitments from other Australian universities to power their campuses with renewable energy. Macquarie University and Swinburne University both made commitments in the first half of 2020, having struck power purchase agreements with Snowy Hydro and Infigen Energy, respectively.