The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has announced it will loan up to $9.1 million to the University of Melbourne, to accelerate the installation of solar PV and other renewable and energy efficiency technologies in an effort to cut energy costs and improve sustainability.
The University says the measures – including voltage optimisation, freezer upgrades, and the installation of solar PV, solar thermal and wind micro-turbines – will reduce its grid electricity use by around 8 per cent; not bad considering the university has the energy requirements of a town the size of Warrnambool.
The voltage optimisation equipment – which controls and corrects incoming power voltage to increase building energy efficiency – is expected to produce the biggest energy saving, reducing consumption by more than 4GWh per annum. It also has the added benefit of reducing operating and maintenance costs.
The funding will also see a total of 1.5MW of solar PV installed across 18 roof spaces, which will offset grid energy by generating more than 2.2GWh of electricity a year. The university also plans to install three micro wind turbines on three separate buildings, to demonstrate their potential.
A concentrated solar thermal power system will also be installed, to be used for space and swimming pool heating, with expected energy savings of 0.75GWh.
The measures are also expected to cut the university’s emissions by more than 9,000 tonnes a year, thus contributing to its commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
For the CEFC, the project falls under the green bank’s investment mandate of financing emerging and innovative renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency for cities and the built environment.
“Australia’s 39 universities make a major contribution to the national economy and to the Australian community,” said the CEFC’s executive director of corporate and project finance, Paul McCartney.
“Yet they face the ongoing challenges of public budget restraint, intensifying global competition and the need to use cutting edge technologies to meet increasing student expectations.
“Clean energy installations like those being undertaken by the University of Melbourne can help universities meet these challenges through an investment that results in reduced environmental impact, higher productivity and stronger financial performance.”
McCartney said the CEFC was looking to work on similar projects with other Australian universities, to help them achieve increased sustainability and cost cuts through energy efficient and renewable technologies.
“The CEFC’s finance can be structured over a longer term than traditionally offered by banks, tailored to match the cost savings delivered through the reduction in grid energy usage,” he said.
According to McCartney, around half of the energy consumption on a typical university campus is directly related to heating, ventilation and air conditioning requirements, with about one third relating to equipment and almost 20 per cent relating to lighting.
“These are all areas where the introduction of renewable energy and energy efficient equipment can really drive down energy usage and therefore significantly reduce energy emissions and costs,” he said.
“We see enormous potential for this important economic sector to increase its productivity and economic impact while reducing emissions through the introduction of clean energy technology.”