Sunday, May 9, 2021

University Makes the Conversion to Solar with 64MW Solar Farm

The University of Queensland is set to become the first major university in the world to offset 100 per cent of its electricity output with the building of a 64MW solar farm through a commercial solar company.

The project, which costs $125 million to construct, will be the producer of over 154GWh per year, adding to the 6.3MW of solar already being produced at its Gatton research facility, St Lucia campus and other locations.

“We are already the largest solar generator among Australian universities, and this initiative will complement the 50,000 existing solar panels on our campuses,” said university vice-chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj.

“This project makes a clear and bold statement about UQ’s commitment to leadership in renewables and demonstrates UQ is prepared to make a meaningful investment in creating a sustainable future.”

The Most Recent in a Flurry of Efficiency

The University of Queensland has become the latest big customer to make the switch to producing all, or at least part, of its energy through a commercial solar company.

This comes after Mars Australia recently contracted 50MW of solar capacity from the Kiamal solar farm, a proposed site with the potential to produce solar energy for each of Mars’s six Australian factories. Nectar Farms has also made the switch, deciding to source all of the power for a new greenhouse facility in Victoria from wind and energy storage.

Each enterprise is making the switch due to the price efficiency of green alternatives. The University of Queensland said, however, that this is not their primary purpose for making the switch.

Using the NPV (net present value) benefits of solar farming, the UQ estimates that it will more than offset its current and future annual electricity output. The current cost of the UQ’s energy output sits at $22 million per year, and the solar panels are set to pay back the University of Queensland within its lifetime.

The university also maintains around 1MW of “fast” (sitting with 10 seconds) energy demand response and 3MW of “slower” (within 10 minutes) energy demand response. This will work to help manage its energy load.

“Our behind the meter storage (electrical and thermal) as well as demand response will play a key role in helping to ‘firm’ the generation,” said Andrew Wilson, UQ manager of energy and sustainability.

“We see a lot of exciting opportunity by being the owner/operator of the generator as well as a large energy consumers.”

Professor Høj said he would like the university to become a centre of green energy understanding.

“Public engagement with the facility could be as varied as student field trips through to live data streaming that can be used for interactive market simulations,” Professor Høj said.

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