Construction of the $125 million UQ Warwick Solar Farm is under way, bringing an injection of economic activity to the town and the Darling Downs region.
The project was officially launched on site today (Thursday 18 April) by Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) Mayor Tracy Dobie and University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj.
Professor Høj said the event marked a significant milestone for UQ, which will become the world’s first major university to offset 100 per cent of its electricity use from its own renewable energy asset.
“At UQ, we are unashamedly committed to being a leader in sustainability and the renewable energy sector,” Professor Høj said.
“We are proud to become a part of the Southern Downs community through this project, and to help generate regional jobs in our home state.
“This will become a centrepiece of our education and research into renewables, and the Southern Downs region can expect regular visitors from UQ and further afield over the 25-year life of the solar farm.”
More than 45 workers are already on site, with the number expected to exceed 160 at the peak of construction.
Local suppliers involved in the early stages of the project have provided services ranging from quarry material and cement to office supplies and accommodation.
The UQ Warwick Solar Farm is scheduled to be completed late this year, and will employ about half a dozen staff – including a UQ facility manager – on an on-going basis.
Cr Dobie said she was thrilled to see Lendlease, UQ’s lead construction contractor, working on the site.
“UQ’s investment gives this renewables project the extra dimensions of education and research – setting it apart from other solar farms being developed in regional Queensland.
“A memorandum of understanding includes plans for electric car charging stations by the end of the year and a visitor information centre offering guided tours of the project, and this will help put the Southern Downs on the map as a future-focused region.”
Professor Høj said UQ used a large amount of energy to power laboratories, lecture theatres, libraries and other facilities for its 52,000 students and thousands of staff.
“Our solar farm will generate 160,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy each year, displacing carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to taking almost 50,000 cars off the road.
“This is what UQ’s mission ‘Leadership for a better world’ is all about.”
Early site works began in February with site offices completed, along with some earthworks, fencing and vegetation planting.
Installation of support structures is under way, with work to fit panels expected to begin around mid-year.
The 64 megawatt solar farm is expected to be generating power by early 2020.