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The AURORA project in the University of Évora…

The University of Évora has not yet set any climate targets. However, the university has a long tradition in researching solar energy. For example, in 2008 the university of Évora established one of the first bachelor’s degree programmes in Renewable Energies Engineering, later followed by a master’s programme on Solar Energy Engineering and a doctoral programme on Mechatronics and Energy. The Renewable Energies Chair has built up and developed a large research infrastructure for photovoltaics and solar thermal energy.

The university is divided into two campuses. One is in the historic centre of Évora, the other about 10 kilometres in outskirts of Évora. This second campus is supplied with electricity by three energy suppliers via three transformer stations. The supply has a significant imbalance, meaning that the energy is not delivered where it is consumed. For example, most of the buildings are supplied via a transformer to which only a small photovoltaic system is connected. On the other hand, there is a solar thermal power plant, but there is hardly any consumption. The initial idea was to set up an energy community that distributes renewable energy better across the campus via the public grid and with zero-emissions.

The demonstrator power plant initially conceptualized in the AURORA project was intended to make an important contribution to the energy balance on campus. A photovoltaic power plant with a capacity of 200 KW was planned, which is about one fifth of the maximum power currently required on campus. An area of 280 hectares is freely available on campus for the construction of the AURORA solar power plant, and only a fraction of a hectare is needed for it.

However due to legal constraints, the initial idea had to be changed and now the AURORA team in Évora will develop a Renewable Energy Community with a local institution in Évora. This institution will seek public funding through a crowdfunding process to build and implement the solar power plant which will significantly reduce its energy bill. The savings will be used to distribute to payback the crowdfunding group and to help families facing energy poverty in the city.

When AURORA and its energy community is totally functional with first results to be published, the demonstrator could motivate other citizens and institutions to join or even create a renewable energy community. These communities can have a big potential in remote areas with difficult access to the public grid, as some places in the Alentejo region.

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