Sustainable Energy

A major university just went all in on solar power

Oliver Strewe | Moment Mobile | Getty Images

A major Australian university is set to achieve carbon neutrality on its energy use and will have all of its energy needs met by solar photovoltaics (solar PV).

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) announced Monday that it had entered into a "tripartite arrangement" with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy for an offsite solar PV corporate power purchase agreement. Photovoltaic refers to a way of directly converting light from the sun into electricity.

The agreement was signed in December. Under its terms, UNSW will purchase as much as 124,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy per year from Maoneng's Sunraysia Solar Farm in south-western New South Wales.

Construction on the facility is set to commence later this year, with solar energy production expected in the second quarter of 2019. While the farm is built, Origin Energy will provide UNSW with electricity.

"This landmark initiative is an exciting step towards realizing UNSW's goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020 and reflects our commitment to making a positive global impact," Ian Jacobs, UNSW's president and vice chancellor, said in a statement.

Jacobs added that the agreement would enable UNSW to "secure carbon emission-free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel-sourced supplies."

Towards the end of last year, a renewables market analysis and forecast from the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that new solar PV capacity increased by 50 percent in 2016. Additions of solar PV grew faster than any other fuel and surpassed the net growth in coal, the IEA added.