Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 61.37
Liaison Suzanne Davis
Submission Date Oct. 26, 2020

STARS v2.2

University of Queensland
IN-47: Innovation A

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.50 / 0.50
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Warwick Solar Farm

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Warwick Solar Farm has been built to produce 100 per cent of UQ's power needs from its own renewable energy asset for at least the next 25 years to 2044 and beyond. Installation of more than 204,000 solar panels was completed in November 2019 and UQ will be 100% renewable from 2020 by building, owning, and operating the Warwick Solar Farm. The 150 hectare site will generate about 160,000 MWh of clean energy in its first year.

UQ will be the only university in the world to offset 100% of its annual energy use from an owned asset.

Forty-eight inverters will convert DC energy to AC power to export to the National Electricity Market to offset UQ’s consumption, using single-axis tracking. The project started construction in April 2019 and is 98 per cent complete. Work on site is now focused on connecting all component of the solar farm together, followed by testing and commissioning of all parts of the system. The project will be operational by April 2020.

The measurable outcomes of the project will be both consumption and generation of electricity, both daily and seasonally. This ‘energy neutral’ position will be monitored over the 25-year life of the solar farm.

New, extraordinary and unique:
UQ effectively becomes a ‘gen-sumer’ — both a large energy generator as well as a large energy consumer. Being a gen-sumer creates significant opportunities for developing and deploying innovative ‘demand response’ solutions to energy needs. Demand response refers to making rapid, often brief, changes to energy demand in response to market price or other signals. A successful demand response strategy will help UQ manage spot market volatility and complement any variability of output from the Warwick Solar Farm. This responsiveness will include using building management system (BMS) software to make almost instant changes to air conditioning settings, load-shedding non-essential pumping, and using emergency diesel generators. The continued roll out and demonstration of rapid, automated demand response is will be a significant future focus for UQ.
This $125 million Warwick Solar Farm will be delivered without any ‘new’ funding being required. Under a BAU scenario, UQ would have to spend around $400 million on electricity over the next 25 years. However, with the construction of the Warwick Solar Farm, a portion of this cost is instead redirected to pay back the loan secured from the Queensland Government and cover operating and maintenance costs. After the initial capital cost is repaid, any energy from the solar farm is effectively ‘free’ aside from minor maintenance and operating costs. Completion of the Warwick Solar Farm will deliver significant cost savings to UQ while also helping to mitigate the risk of continued price rises.
The project also supports agricultural co-production. UQ’s Gatton solar facility was the first Australian site to integrate sheep among an operational solar farm and the learnings have been applied to the Warwick Solar Farm. These sites provide an optimal place for grazing due to the security of fencing, shade provided by the panels, which also increases soil moisture retention leading to improved pasture.
UQ is also excited about cementing a long-term presence in the Southern Downs region and developing new opportunities to leverage from the Warwick Solar Farm. The site is expected to attract significant state, national and international interest and we hope to regularly host Australian and international delegations from academia, industry and government. Engagement with schools will also be a key focus for the facility. UQ has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Southern Downs Regional Council. This MOU commits the University and the Council to working together to identify and deliver additional benefits for the region, such as scholarships for local students, visitor information facilities, and the potential to supply surplus power at cost price for Council facilities. UQ has also committed to installing electric vehicle chargers, including a ‘fast charger’ in the region. This infrastructure will be free for the public and will open opportunities for electric vehicle travel and tourism in the Southern Downs region.


Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Research
Air & Climate
Energy

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
---

The website URL where information about the innovation is available :
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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