An artist's impression of the solar research facility at UQ Gatton on completion. Image: Wilson Architects
An artist's impression of the solar research facility at UQ Gatton on completion. Image: Wilson Architects
6 August 2014

The University of Queensland and First Solar have begun construction on a 3.275 megawatt solar photovoltaic research facility at UQ’s Gatton campus.

It will be the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) research facility in the southern hemisphere and support innovation in Australia’s renewable energy industry by providing world-leading research on large-scale solar power systems.

“The researchers using this facility will provide new insights on integrating large-scale renewable power plants with conventional electricity grids,” said UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj.

“These researchers are some of the best in the business, and their teamwork with an innovative global company such as First Solar will ensure optimal returns on a substantial Australian government investment in renewable energy research and development,  with excellent implications for society and the environment.”

Covering 10ha, the plant will be Queensland’s largest solar PV project and produce enough electricity annually to power more than 450 average Australian homes, equivalent to displacing more than 5600 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide or removing 1590 cars from the road.

It is a pilot plant for new and existing large-scale Australian solar projects, including the Nyngan (102MW) and Broken Hill (53MW) plants being built by First Solar for AGL PV Solar Developments Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of AGL Energy Limited in New South Wales.

In addition to supplying and installing about 40,000 advanced thin-film photovoltaic panels in ground-mounted arrays, First Solar will also provide engineering, procurement and construction for the Gatton PV Pilot Plant.

“Our collaboration with UQ will result in advanced local solar generation technologies that will strenghten the solar industry’s position within Australia’s energy mix,” said Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Regional Manager for Asia Pacific.

“The Gatton research facility will evidence the value that private and public sector research collaboration can bring to the renewable energy sector. It will also support First Solar in the continued delivery of best-in-class technology to the market.”

Professor Paul Meredith, Director of UQ Solar – part of the Global Change Institute – said the project was scheduled to be commissioned early next year and would provide 30 per cent of the UQ Gatton campus’s energy.

“The new research facility will enhance knowledge and implementation of grid integration of large solar power systems,” Professor Meredith said.  

“It will allow us to compare and contrast new technologies by studying electrical and economic performance of multiple PV mounting technologies through the installation and operation of fixed-tilt, single-axis and dual-axis tracker technologies side-by-side in the same field.”

The plant will include a megawatt-hour-scale battery storage research station to improve understanding of the value of short- and medium-term energy storage, its impact on the quality of power supply and any resulting economic benefits.

The research project represents a key component of the $40.7 million grant by the Education Infrastructure Fund (EIF) to UQ and the University of New South Wales announced last year.

Contacts – UQ: Anna Moloney, Global Change Institute, ph +61 7 3443 3148,; Professor Paul Meredith, +61 7 3365 7050.

First Solar Media: Jennifer Pooley, Burson-Marsteller for First Solar, +61 2 9928 1590,; Deepali Girdhar, +91 8800 843600,

First Solar Investors: David Brady, +1 602-414-9315,; Steve Haymore, +1 602-414-9315

About the Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland

The Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, Australia, is an independent source of game-changing research, ideas and advice for addressing the challenges of global change. GCI advances discovery, creates solutions and advocates responses that meet the challenges presented by climate change, technological innovation and population change. UQ is one of Australia's premier learning and research institutions. Measured through a combination of four key global university rankings, UQ is currently ranked in the top 100 of all universities worldwide. It is also a founding member of the national Group of Eight (Go8). For more information please visit

About First Solar, Inc.

First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems which use its advanced module and system technology. The company’s integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today. From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module recycling, First Solar’s renewable energy systems protect and enhance the environment. For more information about First Solar, please visit

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