UTS strikes PPA with solar farm

The University of Technology Sydney has confirmed a deal that will kick-start a new $40 million solar farm in regional NSW, signing a power purchase agreement for energy generated on site. The 32 MW Walgett solar farm is being developed in stages by NSW-based renewable energy company Epuron, with construction expected to begin soon and first generation to commence in mid-2019.

The PPA with Walgett Solar Farm in north central NSW represents the equivalent of half the university’s annual electricity demand. As well as allowing the solar farm to proceed, the agreement means UTS will benefit from a competitive fixed ongoing energy cost, with the potential for substantial savings over the life of the contract.

UTS says the deal demonstrates the emerging commercial opportunities available to the renewable industry via direct links between renewable generators and users, and Epuron Director Martin Poole agrees.

“For our renewable projects to be able to attract finance and get built, it’s crucial to find suitable partners to become committed customers and provide certainty,” he said. “With the UTS commitment to purchase our clean energy output, the Walgett Solar Farm can move ahead and we look forward to commencing construction in the coming months.”

In an Australian first, in 2015 UTS became the first large energy customer to contract directly for offsite solar. The institution has also been investing heavily in on-site solar on its campus, installing six solar systems on building rooftops. Further solar development is planned for 2019 and beyond.

UTS Green Infrastructure Project Manager Jonathan Prendergast said: “Walgett Solar Farm is a fantastic project. The area has high levels of sun exposure, even in winter, so it will generate consistently across the year.

“While much of Australia’s rooftop solar capacity is on houses, and therefore in population centres, projects like Walgett Solar Farm spread our solar capacity geographically, providing more consistent solar generation that’s less subject to local weather patterns.”

By entering into a long-term agreement, UTS will better manage its long-term energy costs and cap its exposure to price rises, Prendergast said.

The Walgett Solar Farm will produce about 63,000 MWh a year of electricity once fully built, enough to power 9,600 NSW homes

If the deal sounds a bit familiar, that’s because back in 2015 UTS entered an agreement to source 15 per cent of the annual electricity consumption of one of its wings from a solar farm in Singleton, NSW.

The deal represented Australia’s first offsite solar corporate direct power purchase agreement, and UTS went on to sign a second PPA with a solar energy system in Orange, NSW, to supply electricity to another building. UTS has also installed six solar systems on its building rooftops, and plans for solar development in 2019 and beyond.

For its part Epuron is responsible for more than 4,000 MW of wind farm developments and 400 MW. One of the two founders is a UTS alumni having studied engineering at UTS in the 1990s.