La Trobe University switches on massive 2.5MW solar array

A 2.5MW solar system installed across 25 rooftops at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus in Melbourne’s north has been completed.

The University said on Thursday that it had energised the 7,500 PV panels, which would supply up to half of the campus’s energy needs on days of peak solar efficiency.

The solar array forms part of the University’s $75 million plan to become Victoria’s first tertiary education facility to reach net-zero emissions, setting a target date for 2029 – one year ahead of rival Monash University’s own 2030 goal.

La Trobe unveiled the 20-project plan just under one year ago, including the Bundoora campus solar and a large-scale composter, which will further cut its emissions by diverting all organic waste from landfill.

The University also said it was in the early stages of investigating the feasibility of building its own large-scale solar farms, given its “significant landholdings” across the state.

In a statement on Thursday, La Trobe vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar said the completion of the Bundoora solar system demonstrated the University was serious about sustainability.

“Having a 7500 solar panel system installed across 25 buildings will reduce our carbon emissions by 4000 tonnes each year and is a major investment in our renewable energy future.”

Beyond generating its own emissions-free electricity, La Trobe has been “progressively installing” more than 50 000 high-efficiency low cost LED lights in and around University buildings to permanently reduce overall power consumption.

It is also working to harness its “in-house research and technology expertise” to reduce emissions, largely via the La Trobe Energy Analytics Platform (LEAP) that will monitor energy usage in up to 50 smart buildings, and use real time smart controls to reduce consumption.

“These combined measures will reduce our carbon emissions by 15 per cent this year and deliver financial savings through reducing our energy bills for the next 25 years,” said Professor Dewar.

Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio welcomed the completion of the solar system, which she said directly supported the state government’s own target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

“We know that if we are to meet our climate change targets we will need to see renewable energy adopted across the economy,” the minister said via a video message.

“I’m so pleased to see La Trobe University taking bold action through both the net-zero commitment and the installation of such a large solar array. It’s a clear demonstration of what is possible with leadership, clear targets, and renewable energy.”

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