A Hong Kong university will launch the city’s largest solar energy project: installing up to 8,000 solar panels on campus to generate not only electricity equivalent to the annual consumption of hundreds of households, but also an income of up to HK$160 million (US$20.6 million) in the years to come.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) project, which will cost up to HK$60 million in total, is expected to start on September 1 and be completed in about nine months, with solar panels to be installed at more than 50 locations on the Clear Water Bay campus.
According to HKUST, which consumed 86 million kWh of electricity between July last year and June this year, the system is the city’s largest and could generate 3 million kWh of electricity a year – equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 900 three-person households in Hong Kong.
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Davis Bookhart, HKUST’s head of sustainability, said the project aimed to transform the campus into a smart and sustainable living lab, so as to enhance the environmental awareness of staff and students.
Marie Leung Chan Siu-chi, chief executive projects director of Widex Technology Development, the system’s main contractor, said the amount of solar power to be generated could reduce carbon emissions by 1.5 million kilograms per annum over a 25-year period.
Bookhart said: “This project is an aggressive one as our team and Widex worked well together to find areas of opportunity we never thought possible. The more progress we make, the more opportunities we will have.”
The areas Bookhart referred to included a pond with floating panels, glass covers on academic buildings and patios, and plastic rooftop covers on outdoor car parks.
The project has joined a scheme of one of the two major power suppliers that allows households, businesses or institutions with rooftop solar panels or wind systems to sell clean electricity to the grid.
According to Leung, the project could generate around HK$160 million by the end of 2033 under CLP Power’s Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Scheme, with a rate fixed at around HK$4 and HK$5 per kWh.
But Bookhart said the university would pocket only an average of HK$4 million every year after deducting the costs of installation. He said the net income would be used in future campus greenhouse gas reduction and energy efficiency projects.
According to the CLP’s 2020 first-half business performance report, more than 9,900 applications had been made to the FIT scheme, which started in May 2018.