UQ announce Queensland's largest solar panel array

Posted 23rd October 2013 by Dennis

The University of Queensland has signed a contract with First Solar (Australia) Pty Ltd for the construction of a solar photovoltaic research facility at Gatton. The 3.275 megawatt pilot plant – including more than 34,000 panels in a ground-mounted array – will be Queensland’s largest solar power installation. First Solar will install its advanced, thin-film cadmium telluride PV modules on a 12.6ha former airstrip site at UQ’s Gatton campus, 90km west of Brisbane.

A $40.7 million Federal Government grant, via the Education Investment Fund, is funding the Gatton installation. The project is also part of an AGL Energy Ltd project, supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Under the engineering, procurement and construction contract between UQ and First Solar, electricity is due to start flowing by the end of next year.

UQ’s Property and Facilities Division will project manage the delivery of the plant and associated high voltage infrastructure, as well as a research building at Gatton and a data hub control room at the St Lucia Campus. The division also will manage and operate the plant on completion. The new research facility will augment UQ’s 1.22 megawatt photovoltaic array, which was completed at the University’s main campus at St Lucia in Brisbane in 2011. That project remains Australia’s largest rooftop solar installation.

“UQ’s reputation for excellent researchers in areas including physics, engineering and sustainability helped secure the necessary buy-in from key industry leaders and government bodies. “This will in turn drive outputs that can be taken up by industry, communities and governments.

“Components of our research will focus on energy storage, plant optimisation, power systems and the impact of renewable energy on the National Electricity Market,” Professor Meredith said. “We will be able to test new technology and concepts at a meaningful scale and our work will help build national capacity for research in solar power deployment. “We will create one of the largest and most sophisticated facilities for solar PV research anywhere in the world. “We are delighted to be working with AGL, First Solar, UNSW and the NSW and federal governments on this landmark project for our nation.”

“The Australian local solar industry is gaining momentum with the recent financial close of our two utility-scale projects in Nyngan and Broken Hill in NSW. The knowledge gained through the construction and operation of large-scale, grid-connected solar power stations will help solar energy play a greater role in meeting Australia’s electricity needs. The research facility will provide the opportunities for technological advancement that will ensure we can maintain this momentum for future projects across the country,” Mr Curtis said.

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