UQ has signed a contract with US-based First Solar for the construction of a large solar photovoltaic (PV) research facility.
The Gatton PV 3.275 megawatt plant will include an enormous 34,000 panel solar array to become Queensland’s largest solar power installation.
The plant is the pilot for two much larger solar farms.
These will be in western NSW at Nyngan (102 MW) and Broken Hill (53 MW) and together the $450m scheme will create Australia’s first utility-scale solar power project.
At Gatton, First Solar will install its advanced thin- film cadmium telluride photovoltaic (CdTe PV) modules on a 12 hectare former airstrip site on the campus.
UQ Professor Paul Meredith told a Lockyer Better Business forum the project would be Australia’s largest solar power plant and the first to be built at the utility scale.
“The plant at UQ Gatton will be the cornerstone for the pilot PV project,” Prof Meredith said.
“It will become a major research facility with national and international access – the world will be coming to Gatton to do research.”
Prof Meredith said that despite the modest output of 3.275 MW, it could be a game changer for the industry in terms of innovation.
“Because we are not required to produce electricity, we’ll be trying some meaty stuff,” he said.
Prof Meredith said the solar array would be built at the bottom end of the campus and would have a viewing platform when complete.
“The view will take your breath away,” he said.
“We also want to integrate it into our farming and agricultural aspects of the campus so there will be livestock throughout the array.”
The Gatton project will be funded through the $40m Federal Government Education Investment Fund (EIF) grant.
The EIF package will also fund a battery-storage research station alongside the Gatton pilot plant.
Prof Meredith said they hoped to start construction in early 2014 with a view to starting the research program in 2015-2016.
“This will make us a truly world-class and global facility,” he said.
“It will bring in lots of dollars and will be a very powerful teaching tool.”
Under the engineering, procurement and construction contract signed by UQ and First Solar, the first electricity from the plant is expected to start flowing by the end of 2014.
Prof Meredith said he hoped the community would embrace the project and become engaged with it.
“The Lockyer Valley is a great place to do it – there’s plenty of sunshine and there is a strong network.”
Federal MP for Wright Scott Buchholz welcomed what he called quality investment in the region.
“The best minds in Australia and the world will be on site,” Mr Buchholz said.
“It will give local producers first hand exposure to the best quality research work.”
What: $14.5m 3.275 MW solar PV research project
Where: UQ Gatton
Who: UQ and First Solar (Arizona)
Why: research facility for Australia’s first utility-scale solar plant
The whole article can be read here” http://www.gattonstar.com.au/news/gatton-leads-with-solar-power/2059564/