Australia is already a leader in #solar power use; the solar industry is booming over there. Approximately 20% of Australian households are powered by #solar energy at the time of writing. And now, an entire #major university has just gone solar entirely. The University of New South Wales (abbreviated #UNSW) wanted carbon neutrality on all its energy use, so it chose solar panels as the way to achieve this ambitious goal.
On Monday, the university announced a contract with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy for solar energy coming from solar panels placed offsite. The photovoltaic panels will supply over 124 megawatt hours a year of green, solar energy to the university. The energy will come from the Sunraysia Solar Farm, owned and operated by Maoneng in New South Wales.
So, what are photovoltaic panels? These are the pieces of equipment that are converting solar radiation into electricity (solar panels, in other words). Solar panels are made up of many photovoltaic cells that are designed to transform sunlight into electricity. The latest generation of solar cells and solar panels is very efficient, and the price is lower by the year. This means that solar energy is becoming less expensive for everyone.
Electricity coming from solar sources is already a serious competitor for electricity coming from sources like coal and gas. Renewable energy also has the advantage that it does not damage the planet. Sustainable, renewable energy is the way of the future; and studies show that just a fraction of the light coming from the Sun is enough to power the entire Earth. For now, solar is used for more and more commercial and state entities, such as UNSW.
Construction on the solar farm expansion will begin sometime later this year and the solar power will start being delivered sometime in 2019, second quarter. Origin Energy is providing energy to the university while the solar facility is being expanded to meet the university’s requirements. UNSW will benefit from cheap solar power and will meet its carbon neutrality target as soon as the solar facility starts to supply solar energy to the campus, as per CNBC.
According to Ian Jacobs, the president of UNSW, the contract with the two energy providers is a landmark initiative and greatly helps the university attain its 2020 goal of being carbon neutral. The president emphasized the fact that UNSW is committed to using green energies like solar power in an effort to minimize the damage done to our planet by greenhouse gases and fossil fuels.
In addition, according to Ian Jacobs, the university will purchase the solar energy at a cost which is attractive both environmentally and economically, when compared to sources like fossil fuels. In other words, solar energy is cheaper than the traditional energy that comes from burning coal and gas. Solar is also a green way of producing energy, as there are no carbon emissions resulting from the process.
According to the International Energy Agency, the new solar panel capacity saw a 50% increase in 2016 alone. Solar panels were installed more rapidly than any other fuel and managed to shadow the coal industry. In Australia, solar panels are cheap, well-built, and efficient. Companies are not squeezed by tariffs, permits and bureaucracy; one simply makes a request to install solar panels and then proceeds with the installation. Quick and simple; and affordable as well!
In the US, there are already several #universities that are at or near 100% carbon neutrality. For example, according to solarpowerauthority.com, Northwest University started its solar initiative in 2011. It was a student initiative, so students raised over $110,000 from crowdfunding to install a 20,000 kilowatt-hours solar system. Drexel University already installed solar-powered trash cans and also has solar-powered trash compactors on campus. In addition, Drexel is making progress towards purchasing all its energy from 100% renewable sources like solar and wind facilities. Unlike other universities, Drexel encourages its professors, staff and students to produce solar energy from their own homes through a university program.
All over the world, more and more universities and state entities are switching from using energy produced from fossil fuels to solar energy. Not only does solar energy cost less in many cases, it is also green and does not damage the planet in any way. And this is just the start of the solar revolution. Each year, new technologies are being researched in the solar industry and new breakthroughs are being made. The cost of solar panels is decreasing, but their efficiency is increasing. In other words, we are able to purchase more solar panels and produce exponentially more solar energy from them.
Nowadays, there are even projects to cover parking lots with solar canopies. Of course, charging stations are also turning a profit in these green parking lots. Solar energy is everywhere; on house rooftops, in campuses, on street lights, in parking lots, and even on empty fields. Like UNSW, there are many more universities that are making the switch – or planning to make the switch – to this type of power in the near future. Many universities want to be carbon neutral as soon as possible (UNSW set its goal for 2020). And government funding, as well as crowdfunding, is helping more and more universities – even the ones that lack the funds themselves – to build their first solar installations. UNSW is just paving the road; in the near future, most, if not all universities, will use only electricity from solar sources. Continue to follow solar news to see what innovative ideas universities will come up with!