Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones, UQ Professor Paul Meredith, First Solar's Rob Bartrop and Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio check out one of the 40,000 solar panels to be installed at the site of the UQ Gatton research plant.
Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones, UQ Professor Paul Meredith, First Solar's Rob Bartrop and Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio check out one of the 40,000 solar panels to be installed at the site of the UQ Gatton research plant. Derek Barry

Work starts on solar plant at UQ Gatton

NO matter what time of year, chances are it's sunny in the Lockyer Valley - throw in a major university campus and it's the perfect site for the southern hemisphere's largest solar research project.

That's what happening at University of Queensland, Gatton, which will also be Queensland's largest solar photovoltaic (PV) project providing enough electricity to power 450 homes.

UQ has partnered with American company First Solar who make the solar panels and have also begun construction on the 10ha Gatton site which was a former Second World War airfield.

UQ's Professor Paul Meredith said $15m would be spent at Gatton on a solar array of 40,000 advanced-thin PV panels as part of $40m project with First Solar's primary solar plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill in western NSW.

"The Gatton site will have a research building, the solar array itself and a bunch of very, very large batteries, Prof Meredith said.

"It will provide 3.275 megawatts of power, whereas for example you probably put three to five kilowatts on your house, so it's a thousand times bigger than that."

Prof Meredith said the array would contain different types of solar panels including fixed tilt, single axis and dual axis tracker technologies which would live side by side in the same field.

"This will allow us to compare the electrical and economic performance of multiple PV mounting technologies," he said.

UQ has signed an agreement with Energex which will allow the research provide insights into how to integrate renewable power plants with the conventional electrical grid.

"The connection agreement is likely to be the gold standard for connecting large-scale commercial systems like this," Prof Meredith said.

Prof Meredith said he expected the site to be operational before the end of 2015.



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