UQ takes ownership of 64 MW Warwick Solar Farm

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The University of Queensland has officially taken ownership of the 64 MW Warwick Solar Farm, which could make it a world first university to offset 100% of its electricity needs from its own renewable energy asset.

UQ’s purchase of the project followed Terrain Solar finalising a connection agreement with Ergon Energy, and the development approval which was granted by the Southern Downs Regional Council in June.

Final design of the Warwick Solar Farm will now begin, with construction set to create up to 100 jobs from early next year.

UQ Chief Operating Officer Greg Pringle said the University was excited to have entered the next phase of the project after key project milestones were met by renewables developer, Terrain Solar.

“UQ is investing over the 25-year life of the solar farm and is keen to see the Southern Downs become a hub for sustainable energy research, education, and engagement,” Mr Pringle said.

“The solar farm will employ about six people on an ongoing basis in operations and maintenance roles, including a full-time UQ facility manager.”

UQ today announced that international property and infrastructure group Lendlease would design and construct the project.

Lendlease has recently launched construction works on a 5 MW Summerhill solar farm located on a disused landfill that was once part of a coal mine in Newcastle, and completed the 10 MW Northam Solar Farm, Western Australia’s first merchant solar farm commissioned last week.

It co-developed both projects with Energy Made Clean, a fully-owned subsidiary of Carnegie Clean Energy.

“An industry briefing for potential employees and suppliers will be held in Warwick in December, to provide further information to anyone interested in working on the Warwick Solar Farm project,” said Greg Locke,General Manager of Lendlease’s Energy and Technology business unit.

The utility-scale solar farm is developed as part of the University’s pledge to offset 100% of its electricity needs with renewables by 2020.

UQ calculates the utility-scale solar farm, which comes with a price tag of $125 million, will pay for itself over the life of the project, through electricity savings.

UQ is planning to sell excess energy generated by the farm into the National Electricity Market, helping to put downward pressure on wholesale energy prices for all consumers, while a PPA with a third party is also on the cards.

For backup power, UQ will need to be exposed to the 30 minute wholesale energy market ‘spot price’. Its plans is to manage a risk of market volatility through specialist financial hedging instruments such as ‘cap’ contracts.

In the long run, UQ may even consider getting further off the grid, as its Warwick solar farm is designed to be battery storage-ready.

In the meantime, the University is first pursuing opportunities for energy storage ‘behind the meter’ alongside its 50,000 modules already in place at its campuses. This includes plans for 1 MW/2 MWh of new lithium-ion storage to be commissioned at the St. Lucia campus in early 2019, as well as the existing 600 kW/760 kWh of lithium-ion storage already in use at the Gatton campus.