UQ’s sustainability leadership recognised

15 Nov 2019

The UQ Warwick Solar Farm has won a coveted Australasian Green Gown Award in the inaugural 2030 Climate Action category for its commitment to sustainability.

An initiative of the Australian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS) the awards recognise excellence in sustainability within the tertiary education sector in Australasia.

This year, the 2030 Climate Action category was introduced because carbon reduction and adaptation to the effects of climate change are essential for institutional resilience and business continuity. Institutions have to be taking bold steps to meet these targets while ensuring student outcomes and satisfaction are maintained. This category was to recognise institutions that are going beyond the usual carbon reduction practices. Judges looked for real innovation and progress to meet 2030 targets such as thse set bythe Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goal 13 – Climate Action. Institutions that take climate action seriously understand the financial, reputational and operational consequences that will impact them. Strong applications also illustrated engagement with the wider community – such as staff, students, industry partners, and the local area. The UQ Warwick Solar Farm beat out some fierce competition from the University of Newcastle and the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Progress on the UQ Warwick Solar Farm is well underway at Sladevale, about 5 kilometres north of the Warwick town centre. Construction work began in April 2019 and is expected to be completed ahead of schedule by 2020. The project will enable UQ to be 100% renewable by 2020. This means the solar farm will generate as much or more electricity each year than the University needs.

Designed and constructing by Lendlease, the 154 hectare solar farm will generate around 160,000 MWh of clean energy in its first year, displacing carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to taking almost 50,000 cars off the road or avoiding over 20,000 tonnes of coal from being burnt each year.

With many of the panels now in place, in September the first Power Conversion Units (PCU) arrived from Spain. The 16 PCUs each house three inverters that convert the power from DC (from the solar panels) to AC. The PCU then sends the power to the switchyard and into the local grid.

A Memorandum of Understanding with the Southern Downs Regional Council commits the University and the Council to working together to deliver additional benefits for the region, such as scholarships, the potential to supply surplus power at cost price for Council facilities, and free electric vehicle chargers.

September was a busy month for the project with the electric vehicle charging stations being launched in Warwick. The two stations are equipped with three bays for simultaneous charging with a Brisbane-made Veefil 50kW fast charger and a 22kW twin charger.

The level of engagement and interest from the broader community, even at this early stage, has exceeded all expectations. Students from the local Freestone State School recently toured the site as part of their Science class studies. Expanded programs for schools will be available when the project is complete.

A custom-designed visitor centre will also be built for both ‘walk-in’ visitors, as well as organised tours.

The project will provide for a range of cross-disciplinary teaching, research and engagement opportunities.

Follow all the construction updates here.

The Green Gown Finalist video about the Warwick Solar Farm can be viewed here: