UQ Solar, First Solar Tapped for Large Scale Solar Power Projects

The University of Queensland (UQ) and First Solar have been tapped for two large and landmark solar photovoltaic (PV) projects that will be completed in the next three years in New South Wales.

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.

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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.”

The Author

I took an interest in the Australian energy sector close to ten years ago and since then have monitored the trends, technologies and direction of the Australian Energy Market. I was drawn to the Australian solar market in 2008 and since then have worked heavily in the field. I am partnered with national and international solar energy companies, from manufacturers of solar panel and inverter technology, online software developers that introduce tools to quote, monitor and manage solar power systems and media organisations who like myself, closely monitor the solar and renewable energy sector.

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