Research students at work on the roof of the UQ Centre

Designing and installing Australia’s biggest flat-panel photovoltaic solar power system drew on the combined resources and significant expertise of UQ academics and engineers, working with industry leaders.

UQ's Property & Facilities division and UQ's School of Mathematics and Physics worked closely on the design with engineering consultants Aurecon and lead contractor Ingenero, a Brisbane-based company that has specialist skills in solar installations for large-scale commercial/industrial clients.

The 1.22 megawatt array is almost 25 per cent larger than any other rooftop system in Australia, with the added complexity of being split between four buildings.

During the design stage, a full shading analysis of the campus was undertaken and each building individually ranked.

Further engineering studies were undertaken on those higher-ranked buildings to determine the roof strengthening required to hold the weight of the panels and space for associated equipment such as inverters. 



Why go solar?

With an ever-increasing demand for electricity, now is the right time for Queensland to take advantage of its abundant natural resource: 2700 hours of sunshine a year. The new flat-panel solar power system, facilitated by Professor Paul Meredith from the School of Mathematics and Physics, not only demonstrates UQ’s commitment to clean energy, but will also pave the way for other greenhouse friendly power generating plants to feed into the electricity grid in the future.

How will a solar power system help other renewable energy initiatives?

One part of the system has been set up with two identical grids – one feeding into a zinc-bromine storage battery and one directly into the general power grid – to allow experiments to be conducted on how best to feed electricity into grids from stand-alone generating plants. As well as solar, this could include other intermittent sources such as wind, wave, or biomass (plant-based material such as sugar cane).

What other benefits does the system have?

The system generates its own performance data streamed directly on the Internet and can be viewed by anyone with an interest in solar power. This data will be particularly useful for UQ’s many different researchers and will be an interesting “live” display for visitors to the university.

View the live data feed

How much greenhouse gas emissions will the system save?

Around 1750 tonnes annually – about the same as taking 335 cars off the road each year. The system will generate around six percent of UQ St Lucia’s average peak demand annual electricity usage.

Why is this project so important?

Any developments in managing energy will have enormous impacts on the power industry. At present the industry has to be capable of providing enough energy to meet peak demand, meaning more cost and more infrastructure. If the peaks can be lowered through alternative energy provision, significant savings will result for everyone. As the first project of its kind in Australia, the UQ Solar St Lucia array represents a major piece of infrastructure nationally and places UQ at the forefront of solar research internationally. Its renewable energy is also a boon for reducing Australia’s carbon emissions.

What are the future plans?

More photovoltaic panels are scheduled to be installed across the university, to complement the smaller arrays already located at Heron Island and Gatton. UQ will continue to work with the State Government’s Office of Clean Energy on sustainable energy projects. Energex will also be working with UQ to plan how electricity storage can best be utilised within the distribution network.

And what of other renewable energy solutions?

UQ Gatton scientists are currently investigating how animal waste can be converted into energy; and major research is being undertaken by UQ Centres on other future energy sources such as geothermal (Queensland Geothermal Centre of Excellence), solar PV technology (Centre for Organic Photonics and Electronics), biofuels (Institute of Molecular Biology), and hydrogen (ARC Centre of Excellence in Nanomaterials).

How big is the system?

UQ has installed more than 5000 polycrystalline silicon solar panels across four building roofs: on two multi-storey carparks, the UQ Centre and the Sir Llew Edwards building. In total, they cover a space equivalent to one-and-a-half rugby fields. A 6 x 7 metre 8.4 kilowatt CPV tracking array has also been placed near the carparks to research another form of solar power technology.

Location Size Date Installer / manufacturer
UQ, Brisbane 1.22MW 2011 Ingenero / Trina
Adelaide Showgrounds 1MW 2010 SolarShop / First Solar
Sydney Theatre Co 500kW 2010 DCM Solar / Suntech
Singleton Energy Aust 404kW 1997 Energy Australia / BP Solar
Bendigo – Solar City 352kW 2009 Yocasol / PSG Elecraft
Ballarat – Solar City 333kW 2009 Sharp/Eco Energy Solutions
Crowne Plaza – Alice Springs 305kW 2008 SunPower / SunPower

Source: APVA, UQ

Photovoltaic Array

Live Data Feed – view real-time and historical information on electricity generated by the UQ Solar St Lucia Array.  The data from the meters is transmitted every minute to the server that generates the live data feed. Due to the time needed to send, receive and process data, the information on the live feed display is less than two minutes “old”.

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