Clean energy | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Clean energy

We’re changing the way universities do energy

Clean energy is more than just a lesson at USC – it’s how we will power our largest campus.

To embrace Australia’s steady supply of sunshine, we have installed 6,000+ solar panels to power a “water battery” that will cut our energy use by 40 percent – a first for an Australian university.

Water battery located at USC Sunshine Coast

How does it work?

Rather than a traditional battery – which poses disposal problems for the environment – USC opted for a thermal energy storage tank, mostly consisting of water. That means minimal waste when it comes time to replace.

The water, once chilled using the power of the sun, will be used in air conditioners across the USC Sunshine Coast campus, resulting in a massive leap towards USC’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2025.

And the best part is – there’s no capital outlay. Veolia is delivering the infrastructure as part of the broader agreement.


(over 25 years)

  • $100m savings
  • No capital outlay by USC
  • Over 100,000 tonnes CO2 saved
  • 4.5 ML thermal energy storage tank
  • 6,000+ solar panels generating 2.1 megawatts of power
  • Plant room with latest PV-integrated roofing
  • Environmentally-friendly refrigerant gas
  • Real-time monitoring system
  • Use of lake water to save a further 802 ML of potable water

Smart system that checks the weather

The best option for energy changes from hour to hour.

That’s why we opted for a system that reacts to changing conditions in real-time.

Depending on what the weather is doing and various other factors, the system will react to changing conditions and shift energy between the solar panels, mains electricity and thermal energy storage tank.

This will ensure the campus is using the best source of energy that optimises energy use, carbon emissions and cost.

Partnership with Veolia

The key to our success has been our fruitful partnership with Veolia, a global company that delivers renewable energy solutions.

Veolia will install the panels and tank at no cost to the University, operate and maintain the infrastructure for 10 years, and sell the energy generated back to the University at a rate cheaper than electricity from the grid.

After this 10-year period, ownership of the infrastructure will transfer to USC.

Over the 25-year life of the project, USC will save $100m on buying electricity from the grid, and any additional electricity costs are quickly eclipsed by the saving.


A teaching tool

We don’t let a good thing go to waste at USC.

That includes the vast teaching opportunities created by the design, construction and operations of a state-of-the art energy system on campus.

We see this entire project as a classroom that we want to share with our students – now, and well into the future.

Every aspect of our water battery project will be studied by students in business, science, engineering, sustainability and other teaching program areas. This will include student visits to site, guest lectures from Veolia experts, and more.

Student engineers have already engaged with the case study, helping Veolia engineers assess the current energy usage of each campus building.

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