Clean energy is more than just a lesson at UniSC. It’s how we power our largest campus.
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 40 percent. It's a first for an Australian university.
How does it work?
Rather than a traditional battery – which poses disposal problems for the environment – UniSC uses a thermal energy storage tank, mostly consisting of water. That means minimal waste when it comes time to replace. The water, once chilled using the power of the sun, is used in air conditioners across the Sunshine Coast campus, resulting in a massive leap towards our goal to become carbon neutral by 2025. And the best part is – there was no capital outlay. Veolia delivered the infrastructure as part of the broader agreement.
- $100m savings over 25 years
- No capital outlay by UniSC
- Over 100,000 tonnes CO2 saved
- 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 a further 802 ML of 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. Depending on what the weather is doing and various other factors, the system will react to changing conditions and shift energy between the solar panels, mains electricity and thermal energy storage tank. This ensures the campus is using the best source of energy that optimises energy use, carbon emissions and cost.
Lessons in clean living
Every aspect of 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, and more. Student engineers engaged to help Veolia engineers assess the current energy usage of each campus building.
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. Veolia installed the panels and tank at no cost to UniSC. They operate and maintain the infrastructure and sell the energy generated back to the University at a rate cheaper than 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 $100m on buying electricity from the grid, and any additional electricity costs are quickly eclipsed by the saving.
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