UQ Solar: From small beginnings

St Lucia campus

UQ Solar began as a collaborative project -- between UQ's Property and Facilities division and UQ's School of Mathematics and Physics -- to save on electricity costs, and showcase the university’s commitment to clean energy and carbon emission reductions. Academics and engineers worked closely on a design for the St Lucia campus with engineering consultants Aurecon and a Brisbane-based company with specialist skills in solar installations for large-scale commercial/industrial clients, Ingenero. The design of the system required a shading analysis of each building on the campus, followed by engineering studies to determine roof strengthening required to support the weight of the panels and associated equipment.

The resulting 1.22 megawatt array went live in early 2011 and was almost 25% larger than any other rooftop system in Australia at the time, with the added complexity of being split between four buildings. The original array was constructed using Trina Solar polycrystalline silicon modules and Aurora Power-One string inverters on four buildings. The system also included software to monitor the quality of the solar power feed for interaction with the local Energex network, with a live data stream to the Internet for public access. The St Lucia array currently supplies 2% of campus power and has been so successful that the array has been extended to 14 additional buildings.

Gatton campus

Having successfully developed a large array for its St Lucia campus, The University of Queensland joined with AGL to bid for education funding for a solar photovoltaic plant as part of the Australian Government’s Solar Flagships Program. The AGL bid for solar plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill in NSW was successful, and UQ won the Education Investment Fund Research infrastructure Project for a 3.275MW array at its Gatton campus in 2012. The Gatton Solar Research Facility (GSRF) was commissioned in March 2015 and includes fixed tilt, single axis tracking, dual axis tracking, and a battery storage system for research purposes.

The GSRF helps to provide voltage and power factor support for the local network, supply power to the Gatton campus, and provide the infrastructure to allow research on power system engineering, economics and public policy.

Research

Savings from the reduced power bills for the university are returned to UQ solar for research purposes. Research to date has included solar PV yield assessments, shading analyses, assessing commercial viability of utility scale solar PV plant and optimising the performance of the array.