First Solar is to build a 3.28MW PV plant for use as a research facility at the University of Queensland in Australia.
The US thin-film company and the educational institution will make use of an AUD$40.7 million (US$39.2 million) grant from the Australian government. Announced in April last year, funding from the grant will also go to the University of New South Wales (UNSW). The UNSW will also collaborate on forthcoming projects.
The solar park will be the largest in Queensland and will be located at the University’s Gatton campus.
It will use 34,000 First Solar CdTe thin-film modules, while First Solar will also provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services. Project management will be overseen by the University of Queensland’s Property and Facilities Division, which will also take over operation and management of the park upon its completion, scheduled for the end of 2014.
The plant is being seen by the University of Queensland as a pilot project for two PV power plants in New South Wales, to be built by First Solar in conjunction with Australian firm AGL Energy, totalling 155MW capacity. The two projects, at Nyngan (102MW) and Broken Hill (53MW), will be built at a cost of AUS$450 million (US$ 434.65 million). All three projects are also being supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
Professor Paul Meredith of the University of Queensland said: “Components of our research will focus on energy storage, plant optimisation, power systems and the impact of renewable energy on the National Electricity Market. 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.”