University of Queensland to Build World Leading Solar Photovoltaic Research Facility
The University of Queensland (UQ) 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 (MW) 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.
installation. The project is also part of the Solar Flagships Program, administered 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 manage and operate the plant. The new research facility will augment UQ’s 1.22MW 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.
In addition to the PV system, the EIF package will fund a battery‐storage research station alongside the Gatton
pilot plant. UQ and the University of New South Wales are partners on the overall EIF grant which will also fund new
laboratories for Power Systems and Energy Economics Research at UQ’s St Lucia campus and at UNSW’s
Kensington campus in Sydney.
The Gatton plant is the pilot for two much‐larger solar farms that AGL Energy Limited and First Solar are building
in western New South Wales: at Nyngan (102MW) and Broken Hill (53MW).
The overall 155 megawatt, $450 million scheme will create Australia’s largest solar power plants.
About $167 million for the larger project is coming from ARENA; the NSW Government is contributing $64.9
UQ President and Vice‐Chancellor Professor Peter Høj said excellent UQ researchers underpinned UQ’s ability to
attract industry and government partners, who would be critical to the success of this globally significant solar
“Renewable energy research needsto be interdisciplinary and industry‐integrated,to produce optimal results
that are practical, efficient and attractive for industry and communities,” he said.
“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.
“Locally, the Gatton installation – like the St Lucia solar project – will yield clear benefits for campus energy
supply, and for UQ research, teaching and community engagement,” Professor Høj said.
Professor Paul Meredith, project director from UQ’s Global Change Institute and the School of Maths and
Physics, said the new facilities and associated research program are designed to support the early stage
commissioning and operation of the main power plants in NSW.
“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.”
According to First Solar’s Vice President of Business Development for Asia Pacific, Jack Curtis, “We are delighted to be partnering with The University of Queensland in delivering its new PV research facility. ”
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