Just over a month after securing Australia’s largest solar power purchase agreement, China-based renewables developer Maoneng Australia has announced another major deal through which it will sell renewable electricity to the University of New South Wales, via energy retailer Origin.
The unusual “tripartite” agreement, signed on 14 December 2017, will see UNSW purchase up to 124,000MWh of renewable energy a year, for 15 years, from Maoneng’s 200MW Sunraysia Solar Farm located near Balranald in south western NSW, meeting the University’s annual energy requirement, starting in 2019.
The deal comes on top of Maoneng’s 15-year PPA with AGL Energy, signed on December 10, for 800,000MWh of renewable energy a year – the equivalent of a 300MW solar PV plant.
At the time of the AGL deal, Maoneng said that the bulk of this capacity would be met with its Sunraysia solar farm, while the rest could come from other projects such as its Midgar solar farm, or “shovel ready” projects held by other parties.
Alongside the PPA with the UNSW, a three-year retail firming contract was also signed with Origin, as the university’s electricity retailer, to manage the intermittency of solar production.
The tripartite arrangement was managed by legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright, with energy management consulting firm, Energy Action, who provided energy market analysis and advice. As is often the case with these deals in Australia, no prices have been disclosed.
Energy Action chief, Ivan Slavich, decsribed the deal as “ground breaking” and said it provided the UNSW with a “direct line of sight over the source of renewables supply, reduced emissions, and greater certainty around prices” over the 15-year period.
“We are seeing a strong trend amongst corporate energy users turning to PPAs as a way to hedge against future pricing movements and to meet their green energy objectives,” Slavich said.
“PPAs provide an opportunity for energy users to bypass traditional generation infrastructure and accelerate the use of renewables in the supply mix.
“With a significant number of PPAs in the market currently, it’s clear that the private sector is looking for viable options to accelerate their renewable energy strategies despite ongoing policy uncertainty. As more corporates head down this path, it stands to play a disruptive force in the Australian energy market,” he said.
For the UNSW, a world leader in solar research and development, the deal has benefits that extend beyond the delivery of cheaper, greener energy. The Sunraysia solar farm will include a Visitor’s Centre and Weather Monitoring System, wo which UNSW staff and students will have access for data sharing, research and case study purposes.
An annual financial scholarship worth $10K is also included in the Solar PPA for local students studying at Balranald Central School to attend UNSW, along with a series of presentations from UNSW to the school both onsite and via webinar on renewables technology and industry.
“This landmark initiative is an exciting step towards realising UNSW’s goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020 and reflects our commitment to making a positive global impact,” said UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs.
“The Solar PPA arrangement will allow UNSW to secure carbon emission free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel sourced supplies.
“It is also highly significant and a testament to the world-class research carried out here at UNSW, that a technology which we played a leading role in developing is now being used to provide the university with a renewable source of emissions free energy.
“UNSW researchers, in particular Professor Martin Green and the late Professor Stuart Wenham and their teams, have been instrumental in ensuring that solar energy is affordable and accessible to all – today’s announcement is a testament to their work,” Professor Jacobs said.
Construction of the Sunraysia Solar Farm is due to commence later this year, with completion and the start of solar energy generation expected in the second quarter of 2019. Origin will be providing electricity to UNSW during the solar farm’s construction.
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.