University of Queensland completes 3.2MW PV research facility

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The 3.275 MW Gatton Solar Research Facility at the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, has been completed.

The university worked with US firm First Solar to install a solar farm with over 37,000 thin-film PV panels on a 10ha section of campus.

The facility will be used for research purposes under the UQ Solar initiative, which is exploring ways in which solar can be more effectively integrated into the electricity grid. It will add to a 1.22MW rooftop system installed by the university four years ago.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said: “UQ made a significant step into solar power generation and research four years ago when it installed a 1.22 megawatt solar system across four rooftops at St Lucia. That remains Australia’s largest rooftop system.

“The Gatton system is almost three times bigger than the one at St Lucia, and takes the University’s renewable energy research to greater heights.”

The plant is the first to use various mounting technologies, including fixed-tilt, single-axis and dual-axis tracker technologies, in order to test for the best option. It will also have battery storage to test the short-and medium-term energy storage, how it affects power supply and its potential economic benefits.

The project is funded by a AUD$40.7million (US$39.2million) grant from the Department of Education. The university is working in conjunction with the University of New South Wales, AGL PV Solar Holdings, in addition to First Solar.

“This research is about improving the way that we integrate solar into our state’s overall energy mix. It also works towards establishing and providing the business model for solar generation in Australia at the megawatt scale. Queensland gets about 2,700 hours of sunlight a year. This site turns that into energy, and into knowledge about how to better service local, national and international energy needs through effective solar technologies,” said UQ solar director Paul Meredith.

Launching the project, Australian industry and science minister, Ian MacFarlane, said: “This facility will not only benefit the University in terms of its own electricity supply, but the knowledge coming from the research will enable the global community to be better equipped in addressing energy security needs.”

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