The challenge with solar power – like many other alternative energy sources – is inconsistency: when it is cloudy, less power is produced. The UQ solar array panels have been set up to allow researchers to experiment with different ways of storing and collecting energy consistently, and how best to feed energy from stand-alone generating plants into the electricity grid.
Several experiments are currently under way:

Solar Research Projects section

Gatton Solar PV Pilot Plant

Gatton Solar PV Pilot Plant

The Global Change Institute is shaping a brighter future for Australia’s renewable energy capability with the construction of the largest solar research facility in the southern hemisphere at UQ’s Gatton campus. The 3.275 megawatt research station will be a pilot plant for new and existing large-scale Australian solar projects, and will look at ways to better integrate solar with conventional electricity grids. The project is a collaboration between UQ Solar, US photovoltaic manufacturer First Solar and AGL, and is expected to advance solar generation technologies that will strengthen the industry’s position in Australia’s energy mix.

Photos of the Gatton Solar PV Pilot Plant

Next-generation Battery Storage

Next-generation Battery Storage

The application of a large-scale zinc-bromine battery storage system will allow significant research into interactive yield management, and in various new methods of feeding power to the grid.

The prototype RedFlow 200 system, rated at 200kW, will be linked to a 339kW section of the UQ Solar array, allowing electricity generated from the sun during the day to be fed into the grid at periods of peak demand, when electricity is most valuable.  An identical 339kW adjacent group of panels will feed their power directly into the grid as the power is generated. A comparison between the two sections will provide valuable data on how solar PV power with storage can assist the network.

Meanwhile, local distribution company Energex has contributed $90,000 to fund state-of-the-art metering and monitoring equipment in order to provide high-quality data and analysis on the solar-generated power feed.  This data will support detailed research into the engineering and economic aspects of how a medium-size solar energy generating plant interacts with the grid.

The research will pave the way for numerous other renewable energy plants – including wave, wind and solar — to play an increasingly complementary role and eventually help replace carbon-intensive power generation from coal and gas. UQ's Professor Paul Meredith says the research will help advance understanding on how a range of renewable energy sources will interact with the power grid.

"The grid has been set up to take massive, high-voltage electricity inputs from a very small number of enormous coal or gas power stations," he said.

"With this research — we expect to answer important questions about how to integrate our electricity grid with numerous types of small and medium-sized renewable energy sources feeding in power in numerous, varied locations.

"We at UQ are very fortunate to have RedFlow and its world-leading technology here on our doorstep in Brisbane, and to have the support from and engagement with Energex on this project.

"We are very excited about working together on this globally significant research."

Professor Meredith said the research project also would allow better understanding of the capabilities of zinc-bromine batteries, which have big environmental benefits over their traditional counterparts, lead-acid batteries.

"A big advantage is that they are filled with water, not acid," Professor Meredith said. "Zinc-bromine batteries are next-generation technology. They are making solar energy much more useable, useful and effective."

Redflow 200 system

System Specification

Redflow 200 system linked to a 390kW section of the UQ Solar array

Research Contact

UQ Global Change Institute
Phone: +61 7 3364 3110
Email:  gci@uq.edu.au

Phil Hutchings
RedFlow CEO
Phone: +61 7 3376 0008

Industry Partner

RedFlow Limited

Concentrating Photovoltaic Array

Concentrating Photovoltaic Array

UQ's array is one of only 31 CPV tracking panels in Australia; the ground-mounted array tracks the sun across the sky each day.

A seven-metre by six-metre Concentrating Photovoltaic Array has been installed on Sir Fred Schonell Dr, adjacent to UQ’s multi-storey carparks.

The ground-mounted array tracks the sun across the sky each day and had its first full-sun, non-cloudy day on 23 March 2011, allowing it to be calibrated to the sun and to start generating power.

The 8.4 kilowatt CPV array is valued at about $90,000 and has been donated by Ingenero, the Brisbane firm that won the contract to install the PV solar array across four rooftops at UQ St Lucia. 

UQ's is one of only 31 CPV tracking panels in Australia; the other 30 are at the Alice Springs Airport (also installed by Ingenero).

The CPV tracking panel uses different technology to the rest of the UQ Solar array:

  • It is made up of 28 parabolic focussing, photovoltaic modules, each with 20 individual reflectors and a high-efficiency triple-junction semiconductor solar cell.
  • It is motor-driven on a dual axis to keep it closely aligned with the sun so optimum solar harvesting is ensured.

In general, the CPV array is more efficient than traditional PV panels when the sun is shining, but less efficient than traditional panels on overcast days.

Having the two different types of technology operating side by side will allow a range of comparative data to be produced.

Concentrating Photovoltaic Array
8.4 kilowatt CPV array

System Specification

7.0 m x 6.0 m Concentrating Photovoltaic Array

Research Contact

UQ Global Change Institute
Phone: +61 7 3443 3100
Email:  gci@uq.edu.au

Roger Whitby
Ingenero General Manager
Phone: 0400 751 911

Industry Partners

SolFocus and Ingenero

Shading Analysis and Smart Modules Research

Shading Analysis and Smart Modules Research

The project aims to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic solar panels and will be undertaken on approximately 10 per cent of the panels in the UQ Solar array at St Lucia

This research incorporates the first large-scale field test of a prototype device, the SN2100 blocking diode, developed by NYSE-listed National Semiconductors.

The project, which aims to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic solar panels, will be undertaken on about 10 per cent of the panels in the UQ Solar array at St Lucia and involves attaching the diodes to the back of about 250 panels, with an additional 250 panels being used as comparative modules.

The effectiveness and application of the diodes will be monitored under a range of natural and artificial shading conditions, before they are released commercially.

Under the research, parts of the panels will be deliberately shaded to analyse the impact this will have on electricity generation. The shading devices will also cover adjacent panels that do not have the device installed.  This will allow a comparison between the two sets of data to determine the effectiveness of the technology.

Shading Analysis / Smart Modules Research
1412 photovoltaic panels on each of the multi-storey carpark rooftops

System Specification

SN2100 blocking diode, prototype developed by National Semiconductors

Research Contact

UQ Global Change Institute
Phone: +61 7 3433 3100
Email:  gci@uq.edu.au

Industry Partners

Trina Solar, National Semiconductors