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University of Queensland to set world standard with 100% renewable energy

University of Queensland to set world standard with 100% renewable energy

Already
the largest solar generator among Australia’s universities, the University of
Queensland (UQ) is slated to completely offset its electricity usage with
renewable energy upon completion of a solar farm by 2020. 

The 154-hectare solar
farm will complement the existing array of UQ’s 50,000 on-campus solar panels,
and render the university energy neutral upon operation.

Officially
known as the Warwick Solar Farm, the project will consist of features such as
solar panels, trackers, inverters, a switching station, an operations building
as well as natural vegetation. 

Construction of the Warwick Solar Farm is scheduled to begin by the end of
2018, and is expected to finish within a year. Australian solar farm developer
Terrain Solar will oversee the construction of the solar farm, and UQ will take
ownership of the project upon commencement of construction works. UQ will also
own and operate the plant over its expected life.

Proposed
at a cost of 125 million AUD, the 64 megawatt solar farm is located on the
outskirts of Warwick in Queensland’s Southern Downs. 

At full capacity, the
solar farm is expected to generate approximately 154 000 megawatt-hours of
clean energy on an annual basis — more than enough clean energy to negate not
only UQ’s current, but also projected future annual electricity usage. 

According to
information available on Terrain Solar’s official website
, the solar farm is expected to reduce emissions in the
electricity sector by approximately 125,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide on
an annual basis.

“The
solar farm will offset UQ’s current $22 million annual expenditure on grid
electricity once it is fully operational in 2019,” said Professor Peter Høj, UQ’s
Vice-Chancellor and President. 

“This project makes a clear and bold statement
about UQ’s commitment to leadership in renewables and demonstrates UQ is
prepared to make a meaningful investment in creating a sustainable future.”

According
to Professor Hoj, “(the solar farm) will leverage UQ’s existing clean energy
strengths and provide the potential to venture into emerging research and
industry partnerships.

UQ
is recognised as a world leader in renewable energy research and strives to
promote energy awareness to the university community. 

In addition to the
prospective Warwick Solar Farm, the university is also home to the Gatton Solar
Research Facility and a 2.14-megawatt integrated photovoltaic system at its St.
Lucia Campus, which is one of Australia’s largest integrated photovoltaic
installations. 

The Warwick Solar Farm adds to UQ’s already comprehensive
portfolio of renewable energy research, and provides new opportunities for
enhancing the university’s renewable energy ecosystem.

While
the solar farm itself will be an environmentally-friendly source of energy and
serve as a venue for experiential learning as well as provide data for
renewable energy research, UQ also plans to install a number of electric
vehicle “fast chargers” and establish a visitor’s centre, effectively
transforming the Warwick Solar Farm into a renewable energy hub for public
engagement.

The
benefits accrued by the construction of the solar farm also extend to job
creation and community empowerment: construction of the solar farm is expected
to generate 100 jobs, and following that it is expected to support six to seven
ongoing full-time positions in operations and maintenance. 

Externalities
generated over the construction phase, such as increased demand for accommodation,
meals and support services, will benefit the local community. 

Terrain Solar is
also currently engaged in discussions with local subcontractors and is looking
into ways to maximise engagement with local businesses and trade specialists.

To provide a natural texture to the solar farm,
landscaping and ground cover works will also be conducted during the
construction phase. 

At the end of the project life, the solar farm will be
decommissioned and returned to its original agricultural condition so that
agricultural activities may resume.

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