The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has signed a deal for a new $40 million solar farm in regional NSW.

This deal, says UTS, “demonstrates the emerging commercial opportunities available to the renewable industry via direct links between renewable generators and users.”

The commitment is via a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Walgett Solar Farm for the equivalent of half the university’s annual electricity demand means UTS will benefit from a competitive fixed ongoing energy cost, with the potential for substantial savings over the life of the contract.

The 32MW Walgett solar farm is being developed in stages by NSW-based renewable energy company Epuron, with construction expected to begin soon and first generation to commence in 2019.

“For our renewable projects to be able to attract finance and get built, it’s crucial to find suitable partners to become committed customers and provide certainty,” Epuron director Martin Poole says.

UTS’s campus has grown substantially over the past decade, under a $1 billion-plus Campus Master Plan redevelopment that, among other things, has delivered two 5-star and one 6-star certified Green Star buildings.

UTS has been taking responsibility for the additional load that places on the electricity grid by looking for opportunities to power more buildings and facilities with clean and sustainable sources of energy.

“We are committed to finding sustainable solutions to reduce our environmental impact,” UTS vice-chancellor Attila Brungs says.

“But we don’t just want to create improvement for ourselves, we want to change whole systems to enable others to also improve their sustainability. UTS has spent the last couple of years researching and creating an effective energy model to help reduce emissions while also supporting the continued growth of the renewable energy sector.”

The Walgett Solar Farm will produce about 63,000MWh a year of electricity once fully built, enough to power 9,600 NSW homes. Currently solar farms supply around 1 percent of annual NSW electricity demand, with distributed rooftop solar providing an estimated 4 percent annually on top of that.