UQ Gatton gets go ahead for solar power plant

This is from an article by David Barry on the Gatton Star website on 23October:
GATTON will be powering ahead in coming years, as an exciting solar-powered project comes to fruition at the local University of Queensland campus.

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.

Solar project

What: $14.5m 3.275 MW solar PV research project

Where: UQ Gatton

Who: UQ and First Solar (Arizona)

When: 2014-2015

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/

What do the US debt limit negotiation difficulties tell us about the global situation?

You wouldn’t expect that a detailed and reasoned analysis of the current energy and (US) economic crisis by an actuary [a statistician who computes insurance risks and premiums] would lead you to the conclusion that we may be much closer than we think to a situation where “Eighty or ninety percent of us will again need to work in manual food production without fossil fuels”.

Well, Gail Tverberg is an actuary with an interest in finite-world issues – oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to inadequate supply.  She writes one of the most sensible and compelling blogs (Our Finite World) on the state of the world and its implications for the future.

Yesterday she took a look at the reasons behind the current US government shutdown and the negotiations on extending their debt limits, and came to the conclusion that:

“We can think that the growth of human systems, including the economy, will go on forever, but we are almost certainly kidding ourselves. At some point, when Nature decides, new species will dominate–perhaps plants that can use more CO2. The transition will be the transition Nature dictates.

We are kidding ourselves if we think that we can decide to slowly reduce oil and fossil fuel usage over the next 40 or more years. If oil prices drop to, say, $30 barrel because of debt defaults, oil production will drop very quickly–not based on some slow decline curve. Natural gas and coal prices will drop dramatically too, essentially putting an end to their production. Jobs will disappear with the lack of fossil fuels. Eighty or ninety percent of us will again need to work in manual food production without fossil fuels. Education, government, and services of all kinds will shrink rapidly.

Nature is deciding for us right now what is ahead. We likely will have little choice in the matter. If we do have a choice at all, it is likely to be in the direction of serious back-pedaling, in terms of population, and in terms of learning to live essentially without fossil fuels. The future is likely to be very different from the past.”

Everyone should read the detailed analysis of the current situation and the ways in which it is likely to play out that brings her to the above conclusion.  Some parts of it are complex, and all of it is information rich, but it is well written and well worth the effort to read it right through to the end.  This isn’t any raving fringe prepper pushing doomsday theories – this is a sensible, well informed, professionally competent specialist in analysing risk taking a long hard look at where the current global problems are almost inexorably going to take us.