Darling Downs Solar Update | Jobs, Farms & More

Darling Downs solar is helping the area by providing jobs to locals and kickstarting the economy – with one council already approving $6b worth of wind and solar projects. There’s now a ‘buzz’ around the Darling Downs and renewable energy – let’s take a look at what they have in the pipeline!

Darling Downs Solar 

Darling Downs Solar Farm
Darling Downs Solar Farm (source: Origin Energy)

“We’ve got $1.2 billion of that under construction now, and that’s the exciting thing, this isn’t just about approvals, this is about action to deliver renewable energies to this region,” Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh said in comments to the ABC

“And we know there are another three [solar farms] in the pipeline.”

In Warwick, the 154,000 megawatt-hour generating UQ / Warwick Solar Farm is to be installed on ‘good agricultural land’ has had to wage a battle against NIMBY detractors. Mayor Tracy Dobie defended her decision (she had the deciding vote to allow the farm DA):

“This region is about growth and development and we can sit here and go poor slowly or we can progress our region and the more development we can get in our region the more jobs,” Ms Dobie said.

“The more progress we can make, the better off we are.”

Mayor Dobie continued to discuss the project and what she sees the future of renewable energy in the Darling Downs as looking like:

“This is a turning point in our region to show we are moving forward, that we are looking to the future, and there is nothing more evident than that than renewable energy.

“There’s a buzz about the Darling Downs, this is a great place to be and great time to be here.”

Toowoomba Solar

There’s been an amazing amount of renewable energy movement in Toowoomba – with the billion dollar project at Bulli Creek approved by the Tooowoomba Council. This will be built by Solar Choice over a 10 year staggered period. 

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio spoke about the concerns some residents may have and why he’s happy to continue approving solar farms:

“I guess we have to be a bit cautious of the type of land we put it on, but in saying that, the land is restorable, its not going to be destroyed in any mining effort or anything like that, and in 20, 30, 40 years’ time that land will be back to full production.”

Have a look at the short video below from ABC Landline which was part of an article about using ‘good farmland’ for solar farms. 

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CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga

CSU Solar – Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga is launched its 1.7MW, $3.2 million PV solar system yesterday – the country’s largest ever solar panel installation on a single site. The solar panels have been installed on the rooftops of 17 buildings around campus and it’s expected they will generate enough renewable energy to power 20% of the university’s electricity requirements. It was constructed over a six month period. 

CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake
CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake (source: CSU Green Facebook)

CSU Solar and Renewables

According to the CSU website, in 2016 they became the first carbon neutral university in Australia. Their 1,774 kW (1.7MW) solar installation will generate 2,620,000 kWh in its first year of operation – this is equivalent to the generation of 2,330 tonnes of CO2. Head contractor for the project are experienced large-scale solar installers Todae Solar, who have been responsible for a 1.24MW solar plant at the Brisbane Markets in Rocklea, 1.22MW at Stockland in Shellharbour, a nationwide 2.3MW Aldi rollout, and many more. 

Ed Maher, the manager of CSU Green, says the installation will serve two main roles – for CSU to keep leading in carbon neutrality, and also to ease their heavy reliance on the electricity network. It’s been financed through independent energy services firm Verdia and the tender was managed by Solar Choice late last year. As a result, the install is expected to save money starting from year one – “This is despite our existing low electricity tariffs and the absence of any unique government subsidies or grants,” Ed Maher said. “Given these early savings, I believe it marks a new phase in the financial viability of renewable energy on a large commercial scale which is another step towards a clean energy future.”

A lot about university solar this week – it’s no surprise that our universities are leading the renewables charge, and amazing to watch how quickly it progresses. 

If you’re interested, a drone-shot shot of the solar installation is available to watch below!

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UTS Solar – aiming to fully offset all energy.

UTS Solar and renewables – the University of Technology Sydney have asked for proposals from large-scale renewable energy projects as they’re hoping to enter into a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) in order to fully offset the energy usage of buildings developed under UTS’ $1.3b City Campus Master Plan program.

UTS Solar – City Campus Master Plan

UTS Solar Large Scale PPA Tender
UTS Solar Large Scale PPA Tender (source: Seb Crawford via uts.edu.au)

According to the UTS Newsroom, their goal is for renewable energy purchasing to meet 40-50% of the university’s entire needs by 2019. The energy requirements of the newest buildings at UTS will be fully offset and are a great representation of UTS’s ongoing commitment to sustainable operation. 

UTS Deputy Vice Chancellor (Resources) Patrick Woods was quoted as saying, “UTS has a strong record of innovation in energy, with Australia’s first offsite solar corporate PPA with Singleton Solar farm, followed by another in Orange NSW and Australia’s first district cooling connection contract with Brookfield Central Park.”

According to Vice Chancellor Woods, “Corporate renewable energy PPAs are a method for institutions to secure competitive and firm energy prices whilst contributing to our sustainability objectives. They’ve been particularly successful in the US for corporations seeking the benefits of renewable energy. The ACT and Victorian Governments, and Telstra have had similar success in Australia.” Woods noted that there are already a number of projects with DA, ready to break ground, but need a PPA for the generation so they can secure financing – so hopefully one of them can pair up with UTS and get started! 

UTS could purchase large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) and electricity for a 10-15 year period – and according to the tender, they plan on implementing the PPA within the next two years. As such renewable technology projects of suitable scale and in the correct phase (i.e. already under development/with development approval and awaiting a PPA) are being sought to tender. 

University solar farms are far from a new thing, with the University of Southern Queensland’s innovative solar carpark winning awards and saving USQ over $1m so far. Although UTS isn’t actually installing solar in this circumstance, it’s still fantastic to see them tendering for a PPA – they do have a lot of solar panels on the premises and support many different renewable endeavours – such as the Solar Stand and their Centre for Clean Energy Technology

 

 
 

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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:

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