USQ Solar Carpark wins award.

The University of Southern Queensland’s innovative solar carpark has already resulted in over $1m in savings and has now been recognised by winning an award. The USQ Solar project has won the top prize in the over 240kW category at the Solar Design and Installation Awards. Another great win for Toowoomba Solar, USQ, its students, and solar power as a whole! 

USQ Solar Carpark

USQ Solar Carpark
USQ Solar Carpark (source: usq.edu.au)

The 1.1MW (1095kW) solar-powered car park at USQ’s Toowoomba Campus was designed by Matthew Linney and Peter Cook. It was installed in conjunction with Autonomous Energy and has resulted in a significant reduction in carbon footprint and also generates approximately $1m in electricity savings and large-scale generation certificate revenue.

It consists of 3842 285W panels – with a minimum energy output of 1.8m kWh/year. This represents an annual carbon offset of around 1479t CO2-e. The project uses LG Chemical battery storage installed on the Engineering and Surveying Building. 

“The solar solution delivers not only a measurable reduction in short and long-term grid energy consumption, resulting in reduced carbon emissions, but it also provides a significant platform for research, learning and teaching,” said USQ Executive Director Dr Dave Povey.

There’s a livestream of the project available on the USQ’s solar website: click here to view it. 

USQ Sustainable Energy Solution Project

The solar carpark is just stage one of USQ’s ‘Sustainable Energy Solution Project’ – which will eventually be a 1.998MW solar project including arrays at the Ipswich, Springfield, and Toowoomba campuses. According to the official USQ website about the project, it will “actively demonstrate the university’s commitment to its social responsibilities, carbon reduction initiatives and improving the environmental performance of the university across every aspect of its operations.”

USQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Jan Thomas said the University generates 16 000 tonnes of carbon across its three campuses every year, with electricity accounting for approximately 88 percent of this figure. Professor Thomas discussed USQ’s plan to try and cut this down, starting with ‘four football fields’ of solar panels on the Toowoomba campus carpark: “With a capital cost in excess of $6 million, the solar solution project will be rolled out in three stages with final work completed by the end of next year,” Professor Thomas said.

We’ll keep an eye on the project and update you as soon as they’re working on stage 2. 

View a video produced by USQ about the USQ Sustainable Energy Solution Project below:

Toowoomba Solar Farms – Yarranlea Solar Farm and Maryrorough Solar

Solar Farms in Toowoomba

A battle waged by Maryrorough Solar and local residents over a proposal for the creation a solar farm outside Pittsworth, Toowoomba has been settled yesterday. The Toowoomba Regional Council narrowly approved the development. Council vote was decided at 6-2, with Deputy Mayor Carol Taylor and Cr Mike Williams against the proposal, which had already been recommended by council planning officer Peter Swan.

Maryrorough Solar DA

The submitted plans were for Maryrorough Solar to build a 40mw solar farm on 186 hectares of land at Yarranlea (65 Roche Road) due to its close proximity to a substation. It attracted six submissions against approval. Some of the arguments those opposing the PV solar farm put forward were the ‘unsightly look of the panels’, the ‘lights at night’, ‘glare’, the potential for dust nuisance, flooding, and weed management. Another submission, whose author seemed very concerned about farmers and agriculture in Toowoomba, queried how the council could approve ‘an inappropriate change to such a large tract of fertile farming land’.

Yarranlea Solar

Yarranlea Solar
Yarranlea Solar (source: yarranleasolar.com.au)

Last December, Yarranlea Solar had a $200m, 100mw project (The Yarranlea Solar Farm at 752 Murlaggan Road – around 45km south west of Toowoomba) approved. The Yarranlea Solar Farm will create 100mw (enough energy to power up to 32,000 homes). The project will involve around 400,000 PV solar panels and, according to the project director Nick Canto, will also create around 200 construction jobs for the area.

At the time at least 18 people objected to the project, who lodged their Development Approval in in July 2016, citing concerns about ‘rural amenity’, stormwater, ‘preservation of agricultural land’ and ‘light from the project’. Presumably they were also quite concerned about the solar farm’s effect on fertile farming land but in any case the project was approved by the TRC.

Both Solar farms will be sustainably created and decommissioned (including full removal of all physical technology) after their 30 year running time, at which point the land will be returned to its previous state and remain suitable for agricultural purposes. There remains, however, the option for extensions depending on what technology is like at that point. On that note, Yarranlea are also assessing the usage of Lithium-Ion and Zinc Bromide Flow batteries for energy storage. No decision on which technology type they chose has been announced as yet. Also no word on if Maryrorough Solar will be utilising energy storage in their PV farm but still early days yet. It’ll be very interesting to see how energy storage, as a rapidly evolving and game-changing technology, factors into the solar farms being built over the coming months and years.

It’s great to see (the majority of) council being sensible about these sorts of situations and helping Australians move forwards with solar power in Toowoomba and Queensland in general, which generates the highest amount of solar power out of any state in Australia.