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Aurecon assists University of New England to achieve its sustainability goals through its first solar farm

Aurecon provides advisory, design, and engineering services to deliver the first solar farm for the University of New England.

At the opening of the UNE solar farm: Clayton Eigenmann, Solgen Energy Group (left); Chancellor James Harris; Vice-Chancellor and CEO Professor, Brigid Heywood (centre); Chief Operations Officer Professor, Peter Creamer (right).

11 December 2020 – In a step towards reducing carbon emissions, international engineering, design and advisory company Aurecon has been providing end-to-end advisory, design and engineering services to deliver the first solar farm for the University of New England (UNE) as part of their overall Environmental Sustainability Plan.

For this project, UNE had a goal to source at least half of its energy from renewable sources. As part of a global community of universities educating future leaders, UNE is committed to inspiring, guiding and demonstrating leadership in driving climate change solutions.

Aurecon is well positioned to assist UNE in reaching its sustainability goals, currently working with the University of Queensland, Monash University, the University of Melbourne, Murdoch University and La Trobe University on a variety of net zero carbon programmes.

The UNE solar farm is built on university grounds adjacent to the Armidale campus in north eastern New South Wales. Funded by the university, the 3.2MWp project boasts 8,700 fixed-tilt ground‐mounted photovoltaic solar panels – enough to power more than 800 households.

The system will generate enough energy to offset approximately half the campus’ energy consumption, around 16,000kWh per day reducing carbon emissions by up to 5000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking 1000 cars off the road.

Energy to the university has been supplied through the electricity grid and liquid petroleum gas. With the Armidale campus alone accounting for over 70 per cent of the university’s overall energy consumption and a plan to reducing carbon emissions, this became one of the university’s drivers to increase its renewable energy source.

Also, with a commitment in the use of ecologically sustainable practices to preserve the environment for current and future generations, the solar farm will allow the university to minimise its grid usage and reduce pressure off local resources.

“With sustainability and climate change one of the biggest challenges of the contemporary world, universities are demonstrating leadership in creating a green future. UNE’s solar farm is part of our work with the Australian education sector in helping them to achieve a positive environmental, social and economic impact that will be realised for generations to come,” said Susie Pearn, Education Industry Leader, Australia, Aurecon.

UNE Vice-Chancellor and CEO Professor Brigid Heywood said that UNE’s solar farm was part of a wider commitment to the use of renewables: "It’s deeply important to us as a community that the contribution we make is not only through the purpose of education but be a contributor to the success of this planet going forward."

UNE first engaged with Aurecon in 2016 to undertake pre-feasibility testing into the possibility of helping the university achieve its self-sufficient and renewable energy vision. Construction of the solar farm began in 2018, with Aurecon continuing work supporting the university with tender support, design and performance review on the project.

“Our team engaged with UNE to guide and support the development of the UNE solar farm and enable them to realise their renewable energy ambitions. The solar farm will play a major role in helping the university transition to a net zero carbon future and contributes to Australia’s transition to a decarbonised global economy,” said Nicholas Wain, Program Manager, Aurecon.

Aurecon will continue to assist the university over the next few years to review the operation and performance of the solar farm. UNE also has plans to supply the campus with 100 per cent renewable energy with the second stage expected to double the system to 6 MW and add battery storage.

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