A Cool Application For Solar Power At University Of The Sunshine Coast

Solar panels and water battery

Image. USC

As part of its efforts toward carbon neutrality by 2025, the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland will have thousands of solar panels and a giant “water battery” installed at its main campus at Sippy Downs.

5,800 solar panels (2.1 MW total system capacity) will be installed across campus rooftops and carpark structures. The panels will provide energy to chill water stored in a 4.5 megalitre water tank that will effectively act as a 7MW battery. The chilled water will be used for air conditioning.

Sixty percent of USC’s energy consumption is related to chilling water. Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill said the project will reduce the campus’s grid electricity use by 36 percent.

USC won’t be paying anything up-front for the system, which will be installed, operated and maintained by environmental services company Veolia. Veolia will be selling the energy generated back to the university at a rate cheaper than electricity from the grid for a period of ten years. After that period, ownership of the system will transfer to USC.

Professor Hill says an environmentally friendly refrigerant gas will be used for the system and water will be drawn from the campus lake instead of potable water.  An automated system will switch to the most appropriate energy source depending on conditions. For example, when conditions are unfavourable for solar electricity generation, the system will switch to the grid at night-time when electricity is cheaper.

In addition to slashing USC’s energy bills, the solar + thermal energy storage project will be utilised as a learning resource for engineering and sustainability students.

“This is proof that we’re an innovative university leading the way on sustainability initiatives, and we’re using this newest technology to inform the engineers of the future,” stated Professor Hill.

The system is expected to be operational early next year.

USC’s roadmap to zero net emissions by 2025 can be downloaded here.

University of Queensland To Acquire Warwick Solar Farm

In related news, last week the University of Queensland announced  it will be the first major university in the world to offset 100 per cent of its electricity consumption through its own renewable energy asset – Warwick Solar Farm.

The 64MW facility will generate 154,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually, more than offsetting the university’s current and projected future annual electricity usage.

Warwick Solar Farm

Image: UQ

Warwick Solar Farm, a Terrain Solar project, was given the green light last week by Southern Downs Regional Council. The project had a bumpy start due in part to conflicting information and what was perceived by some to be a lack of community engagement.

UQ says it will take ownership of the project from Terrain Solar once construction commences. Construction is expected to start by the end of this year and be completed by the end of 2019.

The University of Queensland is already a heavy-hitter in PV among Australia’s universities, with 50,000 solar panels installed across its campuses. In 2016, UQ generated 8.8 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity  from PV.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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