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:

 Gatton Solar Research Facility

The Global Change Institute completed construction of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest solar PV systems research facility at Gatton in December 2014. The 3.275 megawatt array comprises more than 37,000 thin-film photovoltaic panels, installed over 10 hectares on what was formerly a campus airstrip. The advanced technology photovoltaic (PV) modules from First Solar will produce enough clean energy to power more than 450 average Queensland homes and will displace the equivalent of 5600 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.  Read more here.

Battery Energy Storage System (BESS)

A 600 kW, 760 kWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) has recently been integrated with The University of Queensland (UQ) Gatton solar PV plant. This addition to the Australian Government funded 3.275 MW pilot PV plant brings a new dimension to UQ’s large-scale PV grid integration research. This document intends to introduce the BESS at UQ Gatton and share some of the aspects considered during the testing and commissioning process to make this facility suitable for research and development on BESS applications for enabling large-scale PV integration. Read more here.

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.

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”.

The prototype RedFlow 200 system, rated at 200kW,  is 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 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 would 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

Phil Hutchings
RedFlow CEO
Phone: +61 7 3376 0008

Industry Partner
RedFlow Limited


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 Drive, adjacent UQ’s multistorey 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 was donated by Ingenero, the Brisbane firm that won a 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 x 6.0 metre, Concentrating Photovoltaic Array

Research Contact

Roger Whitby
Ingenero General Manager
Phone: 0400 751 911

Industry Partners
SolFocus and Ingenero

 Shading Analysis and Smart Modules Research

The project aims to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic solar panels and will be undertaken on about 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 UQ's photovoltaic solar panels,  involves attaching diodes to the back of some 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

Industry Partners

Trina Solar, National Semiconductors

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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