La Trobe University starts work on 500kW of solar carports

Image: La Trobe Bendigo Acting Head of Campus, Dr Melanie Bish, and Bendigo Sustainability Group’s Mr Colin Lambie.

Victoria’s La Trobe University has set to work on the latest part of its plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2029, kicking off construction of roughly 500kW of solar car park facilities at its Bendigo campus this week.

The carports will provide shaded parking spaces for close to 200 vehicles and add more than 1500 PV panels to the Bendigo campus, which itself is on track to reach net-zero emissions by 2022.

More broadly, the solar carports add to La Trobe’s ambitious $75 million plan to become Victoria’s first tertiary education facility to reach net zero emissions – one year ahead of rival Monash University’s own 2030 goal.

The 20-project plan, unveiled in August last year, kicked off with the installation of more than 7,000 solar panels on 27 buildings across the University’s Bundoora campus in outer Melbourne. That 2.5MW PV system installed across 25 rooftops was switched on in July.

Beyond on-site renewables, La Trobe has been investigating the feasibility of building its own large-scale solar farms, given the University’s “significant landholdings” across the state.

For the University’s Bendigo campus, the new installation will take it to almost a 30 per cent share of electricity generated from onsite renewables.

“We made a pledge 12 months ago to achieve net zero emissions by 2029, and we are well on track to achieving that,” said La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar in a statement on Thursday.

“Reducing our carbon emissions is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good economic sense. We expect to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long term through the steps we are taking now,” he said.

“By the end of 2020 all four regional campuses will have more than 90 per cent of their lighting converted to low-energy LEDs, and a significant proportion of daytime energy use supplied by onsite renewables.

“Across the University, these measures are reducing our carbon emissions by thousands of tonnes each year – a major investment in our renewable energy future.”

La Trobe students and staff are also now using an Energy Analytics Platform developed at the University to monitor energy production and identify further energy efficiency improvements.

Elsewhere around Australia, numerous other universities are also setting their own goals to slash emissions and switch to renewable energy – both via their own solar and wind assets and through PPAs.

Earlier this year the University of Queensland became one of Australia’s first universities to successfully make the switch to 100 per cent renewables, following the completion of its 64MW Warwick solar farm.

The $125 million project was officially opened in July and started supplying power to university campuses, alongside solar projects installed at Gatton and St Lucia.

The University of Newcastle, meanwhile, in New South Wales, is on track to meet its target of sourcing 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020, after signing a seven-year supply contract for a mix of solar, wind and hydro power with Snowy Hydro subsidiary, Red Energy.

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