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Williams College

Publication Date

Spring 2010

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action


Macquarie University uses over 30,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. As one of the largest energy consumers in its area, the University is looking for ways to reduce the cost and environmental impact associated with its operations. One possible option is the use of solar energy to generate electricity on campus. However, solar energy is a complicated issue, especially for a large scale project. By taking the time to evaluate options prior to beginning a project of this scale, money and effort can be saved in the future. The purpose of this study is to examine the feasibility and associated benefits of installing solar electricity generation capacity on campus. This report begins by looking at the various options for solar systems at Macquarie University. Solar insolation data from NASA were used to calculate the estimated amount of electricity that each system would produce annually. Cost data were used to estimate the cost of each system and the cost per kWh of electricity from each system. In addition, space and energy use data from the University were used to determine the size and capacity of the systems required and the availability of space on campus. Furthermore, interviews with nine people were used to evaluate the non-financial benefits of using solar at the University. A large scale one axis tracking photovoltaic system proved to be the cheapest option with a 16 year payback period and a cost of $0.26 per kWh. With the currently available 71,000 square meters of usable space, up to 12,850,000 kWh or 42% of the University’s 2010 electricity use could be generated with solar energy. By 2020, with the addition of another 26,700 square meters of usable space, up to17,680,000 kWh of electricity could be generated per year. However, this would only provide 32% of the University’s 2020 projected electricity demand. By 2030, another 10,000 square meters of space will be available, increasing annual generation to 19,500,000 kWh or 31% of the University’s 2030 electricity use. Non-financial benefits included: reduced environmental impact, learning and teaching opportunities, a symbol of commitment to sustainability, energy security, and publicity. The University cannot generate 100% of its electricity from on campus solar installations. In addition, solar electricity is relatively expensive compared to current electricity prices. However, given the long time horizon for the University and the non-financial benefits, the University should consider installing at least one of the smaller systems identified in the discussion section.


Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Natural Resources and Conservation | Oil, Gas, and Energy


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