UQ Solar and the University of New South Wales are the research organisations in a $40.7 million Education Investment Fund Research Infrastructure Program that will support the construction of a 106MW solar power plant at Nyngan and 53MW solar power plant at Broken Hill. A 3.275 MW pilot plant that has more than 34,000 panels will first be established at the Gatton Campus of UQ, some 90 kilometres west of Brisbane. The power plants are seen to affect the high costs of solar panels and Brisbane solar panel quotes.
First Solar, a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar system, will provide the PV modules as well as oversee the engineering, procurement and construction aspects of the project. It will design and construct the power plants using state-of-the-art CdTe PV modules. The firm will also maintain both power plants for the first five years of operation.
AGL Energy Limited, the successful bidder for funding under the project, is one of the leading integrated renewable energy companies in Australia. Both First Solar and AGL Energy will receive P129.7 million from the federal government for the projects.
The New South Wales government will also chip in $64.9 million for the projects that will be completed in two years. It is estimated that both projects will require $450 million in funding.
Impact on consumers
Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said the projects would provide Australia with an excellent opportunity to lower the costs of industrial-scale solar power. The initiative potentially lowers Brisbane solar panel quotes in the future.
“We have seen the cost of solar PV come down dramatically and this has allowed the Australian Government to capture this benefit and spread taxpayers’ money further,” Mr Ferguson said in a statement.
The projects are expected to produce electricity to provide for the requirements of a minimum 30,000 Australian households. It is projected to provide around 350 GWh of electricity on an annual basis. Electricity generated by the power plants will be sold to AGL Hydro Partnership.
World-class UQ solar research
UQ Solar professor Paul Meredith said the Education Investment Fund Research Infrastructure Program will build national capacity for solar power research at the utility scale and set-up infrastructure for the Australian research community. He added that the program involves building a large PV pilot plant with research components focused on energy storage, plant optimisation, power systems and the impact of renewable energy on the national electricity market.
“This will be a truly world-class facility for solar PV research,” he said in a statement.
UQ Solar’s partnership with UNSW is also strategic given that the latter has been an acknowledged leader in photovoltaic research for the past three decades. According to UQ senior deputy vice chancellor Professor Max Lu: “UQ is making a strategic push into energy research — across the board — and renewables are a significant component of that work, which is taking place across the University and its institutes.”