Work starts on Australia’s largest solar photovoltaic systems research facility

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Queensland solar plant

Australia is to be the home of one of the largest solar photovoltaic research plants in the world.

The University of Queensland has begun construction on a 3.275-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic research facility at UQ’s Gatton campus. The facility will be the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) research facility in the southern hemisphere and support innovation in Australia’s renewable energy industry by providing world-leading research on large-scale solar power systems.

“The researchers using this facility will provide new insights on integrating large-scale renewable power plants with conventional electricity grids,” says UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj.

Covering 10 hectares, the plant will be Queensland’s largest solar PV project and produce enough electricity annually to power more than 450 average Australian homes, equivalent to displacing more than 5600 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide or removing 1590 cars from the road.

It is a pilot plant for new and existing large-scale Australian solar projects, including the Nyngan (102MW) and Broken Hill (53MW) plants being built by First Solar for AGL PV Solar Developments Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of AGL Energy Limited in New South Wales.

In addition to supplying and installing about 40,000 advanced thin-film photovoltaic panels in ground-mounted arrays, First Solar will also provide engineering, procurement and construction for the Gatton PV Pilot Plant.

“The Gatton research facility will evidence the value that private and public sector research collaboration can bring to the renewable energy sector. It will also support First Solar in the continued delivery of best-in-class technology to the market,” says Jack Curtis, First Solar’s regional manager for Asia Pacific.

According to Professor Paul Meredith, director of UQ Solar housed within the Global Change Institute, the project is scheduled to be commissioned early next year and would provide 30 percent of the UQ Gatton campus’ energy.

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