The University of Queensland (UQ) has become the first major university in the world to offset all of its electricity use with clean, renewable energy, following the launch of the university’s 200,000 panelled solar farm this month.
The solar farm, situated close to the state’s southeastern town of Warwick, will generate around 160 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity a year — enough to power over 25,000 households — and decrease coal use by at least 60,000 tonnes.
Organisations, businesses and universities need to seriously step up if the world is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and Australia is to achieve its Paris agreement targets, UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Peter Høj said.
Høj hopes UQ’s achievement will inspire others and prove that transitioning to renewable energy is feasible.
"The Warwick Solar farm is first and foremost an act of leadership that demonstrates that a transition to renewables can be done at scale, that’s practicable and makes economic sense,” Høj said in a UQ article. “When it comes to climate change, we all share the responsibility and the consequences, and so we need to be acting in a way that is informed by research and with collaboration in mind.”
Detailed information about the solar farm is freely available, and Høj says the university will meet and share key learnings from its renewable energy journey with commercial operators, governments and industry players.
Warwick Solar Farm makes #UQ the world’s first large university to offset all its #electricity use with self-generated, 100% renewable energy. #UQResearchhttps://t.co/xXAXhUIgHUpic.twitter.com/eNVnxGmTsV— UQ News (@UQ_News) July 26, 2020
Alongside the positive environmental outcomes, the solar farm also makes economic sense for the university.
The farm is primarily funded by a $125 million loan from the state government. A significant chunk of the money that was previously devoted to paying the university’s electricity fee will now go toward the loan, which, according to the Conversation, should be completed within 10 years.
Queensland State Development Minister Kate Jones said UQ’s investment in the solar sector has accelerated progress toward the state’s target of 50% renewables by 2030.
"Queensland is already a world leader in the take-up of household solar rooftops, and this is another global energy title,” Jones said, according to Renew Economy. “The global coronavirus pandemic is impacting economies around the world, and Queensland is no different. Because we’re managing the health response, we have started delivering Queensland’s plan for economic recovery.”
Jones added: “Part of that plan is backing our renewable energy sector because it is driving down emissions, putting downward pressure on power prices and creating jobs.”