Sippy Downs’ USC Saves $100 Million with Renewable Energy Revolution

Clean and sustainable energy isn’t just a topic inside the classrooms of the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) at Sippy Downs. The University also shows its commitment to sustainability by practising it through the use of solar-powered rooftops and a newly installed giant water battery.

Having these two cost-saving technologies hand in hand will allow the University to significantly cut its energy consumption.

“USC has calculated that this system will reduce their electricity use by 40 per cent and save the campus $100 million over 25 years,” Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said.

Dr Lynham, who turned on the switch the solar-battery facility with USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill and Veolia Australia and New Zealand chief Danny Conlon, also praised how the scheme helped boost employment in the state.

“This $12 million project has created 80 local construction jobs and adds to more than 42,000 rooftop solar systems on the Sunny Coast, and the 520,000 residential solar systems across Queensland,” Dr Lynham said.

Photo credit: USC: University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia/ Facebook

A first of its kind

So how does this energy-saving scheme work?

The USC has about 6,000 solar panels installed on rooftops of all its buildings and carparks. Having this much amount of solar panels would generate about 2.1 megawatts of power, thanks to the abundant supply of sunshine that Australia receives each day.

The power collected through the solar panels will then cool the 4.5 megalitres of water inside the three-storey water tanks. These water tanks serve as a thermal energy storage tank or what USC calls “the giant water battery”.

The cooled water will be stored and used for air conditioning, which is currently the single biggest user of electricity at the campus.

According to USC’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill, having this kind of renewable energy system will result in a massive leap towards the University’s bid on becoming carbon neutral by year 2025.

“For a regional university to be leading the way on this is proof that we don’t need to be in the big cities to be taking big strides in new ideas in renewables, and for us that’s very exciting,” Professor Hill said.

“The team behind this are already sharing the technology with schools, universities and companies around the world.”

Partnership with Veolia

This renewable energy project of the University of the Sunshine Coast would not have been a success if it wasn’t for the fruitful partnership between the University and Veolia, a global company that is known for delivering renewable energy solutions.

Water Tank
Photo credit:

Veolia’s partnership agreement with the USC is comprised of installing and delivering infrastructure, namely the solar panels and the water tanks. Veolia will also operate and maintain the infrastructure for 10 years, and after this period the ownership of the infrastructure will be transferred to the University.

As for the collected energy from this energy-saving scheme, Veolia will sell the energy generated back to the University of the Sunshine Coast at a rate cheaper than electricity from the grid.