This year the University of Newcastle will switch on what is expected to be one of the largest projects of rooftop solar PV installations in the Hunter and within the Australian university sector. The $4million 2.0 MW system will see more than 6000 panels installed across about 25 buildings at the Callaghan campus with additional panels installed at the Ourimbah campus.

The forecast annual output from the system of about 2.8 million kWh will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2800 tonnes CO2-equivalent compared with conventional grid-sourced electricity, making a substantial contribution to reducing the university’s carbon footprint. Such solar installations on campus also are valuable teaching and research tools offering the possibility of the campus becoming a living laboratory for sustainable futures.

This solar investment brings the university a step closer to 100 per cent renewable energy. A study by TFI and CLEANaS in 2016 showed that this 100 per cent target is both technically feasible and financially beneficial and could be achieved by reducing the energy usage on campus by energy efficiency; by the installation of both rooftop and ground mounted solar PV; and by buying remaining unfulfilled energy requirements from renewable energy generators.

Other universities in Australia are also taking such steps. UTS buys solar power from a solar farm near Singleton and UNSW plans to go fully solar-powered not through solar installations on campus but through buying output from a solar farm near Balranald. One way to stay in touch with the rapidly advancing field of renewables is to join the Alternative Technology Association, a not-for-profit that enables, represents and inspires people to live sustainably in their homes and communities.