The University of Technology Sydney will purchase electricity directly from a solar farm in the Hunter Valley, in a partnership believed to be the first of its kind in Australia.
The new model of renewable energy purchasing will see the UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building (otherwise known as the Frank Gehry building) source 12 per cent of its annual electricity from the 200-kilowatt Singleton Solar Farm Stage 2 in the Hunter Valley.
According to UTS, the partnership is the first in Australia where a power purchase agreement has been signed directly between a large energy customer and a solar farm on an offsite location.
“UTS strives to lead in sustainability and new business models can be just as important as new technologies in achieving this,” UTS deputy vice chancellor (resources) Patrick Woods said.
He said the university had proceeded with the new business model to further understand how it might work.
“This model can be further developed in time by UTS or shared with others, so it could be used to underwrite new renewable energy projects.”
UTS green infrastructure project manager Jonathan Prendergast said that to get built solar and wind farms needed customers, which had generally been electricity retailers.
“This new customer-led renewables model means large consumers can become customers directly of renewable energy operators,” Mr Prendergast said.
“There are a lot of large renewable energy projects ready to go, but they can’t get funded until they have a power purchase agreement. We have a great solar resource in Australia, but we have only built a few solar farms. This approach can see more get funded and built.”
Other bodies interested in such a move include the City of Melbourne and WWF’s corporate renewables buyers group.
“Working on new innovative projects can be tough going, and it really helps when you can point to other projects and show that it is possible,” Mr Prendergast said. “In 2014, such direct PPAs in the USA underwrote the development of more than one million kilowatts capacity of new renewables.”
The PPA has been facilitated by UTS’s electricity retailer, ERM Business Energy.