The University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia has become the first institute of higher learning in the world to have its entire energy consumption offset by renewable energy produced from its own assets. With 50,000 solar panels on campuses in Brisbane and Gatton generating 7 megawatts (MW) the university was already Australia’s largest solar energy producing university. The new Warwick facility that was completed in 2020 generates about 160GWh per year making UQ energy neutral. The new facility not only meets its current electricity needs it also offsets projected future demand.
The AU$125 million (US$87.33 million) cost of the project will pay for itself with energy cost saving within the life of the project. Prior to the installation of solar panels the university spent $22 million each year on grid electricity. The project was built by Terrain Solar and will be maintained by UQ.
In addition to its environmental and financial benefits, UQ is committed to using the project as a teaching tool that includes everything from student field trips to industry partnerships and research across a wide range of disciplines. They are putting the data from their solar installations online and interactive market simulations are among the many uses for this information.
UQ is looking to share knowledge among commercial operators and government as well as collaborate with industry partners to advance innovative in new energy solutions including research in emerging battery energy storage and hydrogen conversion technologies.
With both a visitor’s center and electric vehicle ‘fast chargers’, UQ is a renewable energy hub that is helping to make the point that the transition to renewables at scale is both practical and economical.
In recognition of the achievement the project won the Australasian Green Gown Award for commitment to sustainability in the inaugural 2030 Climate Action Category.