UniSC’s is committed to reducing the amount of low carbon energy we use to create a cleaner and more sustainable future for all. Explore the innovation and plans driving our achievement to achieve this goal.
Clean energy is more than just a lesson at UniSC. It’s how we power our largest campus, UniSC Sunshine Coast. To embrace Australia’s steady supply of sunshine, we have installed 6,000+ solar panels to power a “water battery” that cuts our energy use by a third.
Rather than a traditional battery UniSC uses a thermal energy storage tank which stores chilled water for use in the air conditioning system across the University. This water and energy efficient approach to air conditioning is designed to cut the single largest emissions factor – electricity use - for the University and contributes to our goal to become carbon neutral by 2029.
- No capital outlay by UniSC
- Over 100,000 tonnes CO2 saved over 25 years
- 4.5 ML thermal energy storage tank
- 6,000+ solar panels generating 2.1 megawatts of power
- Plant room with latest PV-integrated roofing
- Environmentally-friendly refrigerant gas
- Real-time monitoring system
- Use of lake water to save potable water
Smart system checks the weather
The best option for energy changes from hour to hour. UniSC opted for a system that reacts to changing conditions in real-time. Decisions can be made depending on the weather and various other factors. When solar electricity is being generated, the chillers will be operated to cool the water in the thermal energy storage tank. When solar irradiance is low the chillers are operated at night to reduce costs for the mains electricity needed. This flexibility ensures the campus is using energy that optimises consumption, carbon emissions and cost.
Lessons in clean living
The water battery project was studied by students in business, science, engineering, sustainability and other teaching program areas. This included site visits, guest lectures from Veolia experts, student modelling projects and more.
Partnership with Veolia
The key to the success of the project was a strong partnership with Veolia, a global company that delivers renewable energy solutions. A DBOOT (Design, Build, Own, Operate, Transfer) model was used in which Veolia installed the panels and tank at no cost to UniSC. They operate and maintain the infrastructure and sell the energy and chilled water generated back to the University at a rate comparable with electricity from the grid. After a 10-year period, ownership of the infrastructure will transfer to UniSC. Over the 25-year life of the project, UniSC will save up to $100million over buying electricity from the grid.
Smart utility management
A variety of energy saving initiatives have been implemented campus-wide which have achieved significant environmental and financial savings.
Building Management System (BMS)
An integrated Building Management System was implemented to provide real-time data on energy and water consumption for all individual buildings; giving an understanding of how electricity, mains water, recycled water and chilled water are used across the Sunshine Coast campus. This enables real-time analysis of power and water use for reporting purposes and communications.
Power and water usage in all buildings on campus is centrally monitored. SMART meters are installed in all buildings on campus, with data collected from the meters fed back to a desktop application that allows real-time analysis of power and water usage.
The reports generated from the collated data are used to identify trends in power and water consumption, which can then be used to identify future conservation opportunities.
Much of the air-conditioning on campus is centrally monitored. This allows for better control, energy saving and quicker response time for breakdowns as a result of the system’s early warning capabilities.
The air-conditioning in the larger lecture theatres is being converted to a movement detection system rather than the current time schedule that operates continuously during teaching hours. This will result in significant power saving and removes the requirement for scheduling air-conditioning for after-hours events.
Conventional refrigeration air conditioning systems have been replaced with energy-efficient chilled water systems. Spiral filters are being implemented in the chilled water systems to increase efficiency by around 10% through the removal of excess dirt, air and metals from the water.
Variable speed pumps and smart controls have been added so chilled water is pumped at a rate consistent with the demand for air-conditioning, allowing a significant reduction of power used in times of low demand.
Smart CO2 sensors
Smart CO2 sensor controls were added to the campus air-conditioning system which sense the people load according to the amount of CO2 in the return air path and adjusts the supply of the air-conditioning accordingly. This has resulted in significant power savings as the cooling requirements are dependent on the number of people occupying the space at one time which removes the need for continuous cooling day and night. This has achieved an average saving in energy use of 50% for each upgraded building.
On-campus wayfinding lighting has been replaced with more energy efficient LED street lights, and T5 low energy fluoro tubes are in use across campus. These draw around 30 watts compared to 100-plus watts in conventional fluoro tubes.
The University has replaced all exit and evacuation lights with a system that provides 24/7 monitoring and eliminates the need for contractors to test and maintain the system.
High-level openings in the UniSC Arena allow additional daylight and exhaust of hot air, while split circuits allow for varied lighting levels.
Some LED technology upgrades have been implemented, and lighting controls are used in selected spaces and for external street lights.
In April 2015, the University combined all separate electricity meters into one virtual meter which created one account and one lower rate demand charge being payable per month. This resulted in the continuation of reduced electricity bills with a saving of up to $50,000/year for the Sunshine Coast campus.
Contestable energy market
The University undertook negotiations with a number of Australian electricity retailers in 2012 which has brought a significant reduction of the amount payable per kilowatt hour (kWh); up to a 78% reduction for peak rates and a 66% for non-peak rates.
Heating ventilation and air-conditioning optimisation
Various initiatives have been implemented to improve energy efficiency and HVAC services, such as variable speed drives, optimisation of ventilation controls and building management system upgrades, including campus-wide energy sub-metering and scheduling.
UniSC supports achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7: Affordable and clean energy, Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure and Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.