Queensland Uni powers up Tesla batteries on way to 100 pct renewables

The University of Queensland has flicked the switch on its own Tesla energy storage system as part of the university’s aim to become 100 per cent renewably powered by onsite generation.

The $2 million system will provide 2,000 kWh of energy storage, storing enough power to supply 175 homes for 24-hours. The University estimates it could also provide up to 10 per cent of its St Lucia campus for two hours.

“To put it into perspective, the university uses a large amount of electricity to power lecture theatres, laboratories, libraries and other facilities for more than 50,000 students and staff,” UQ chief operating officer Greg Pringle said.

“We are on track to become the first university in the world to offset 100 per cent of our electricity use using our own renewable energy generation.”

“This battery storage system will help us to support that ambitious goal – it will complement the Warwick Solar Farm which is nearing completion, and recently won a coveted Australasian Green Gown Award,” Pringle added.

The University of Queensland has funded the installation of the Tesla energy storage system using energy savings generated from the university’s existing solar arrays.

The university hopes to use the Tesla battery system to participate in the wider energy market, using software developed by one its engineering graduates to coordinate the charge/discharge cycle of the battery with wholesale electricity prices.

“We can now trade in the wholesale energy market – the goal is to charge when prices are low and renewable energy is abundant, and then discharge when demand and prices are high,” UQ energy and sustainability manager Andrew Wilson said.

“To facilitate this we are using a custom control system which was developed by one of our engineering graduates to monitor wholesale energy prices around the clock and automatically control our trading of energy.”

“Combined with the other services we are able to provide to the grid such as frequency control during faults, we expect the battery system to earn around $250,000 in revenue each year,” Wilson added.

The university has created an online portal that provides information about the performance of the battery system, including the state of charge, wholesale electricity prices and the battery’s activity.

The University of Queensland sees battery technology as a rapidly emerging part of the energy system and hopes that the university’s system could provide an example to be replicated by both households and businesses.

“With the rising cost of electricity, more and more householders are investigating and investing in solar and battery systems for their home,” UQ chair in Sustainable Energy Futures Professor Ashworth said.

“These systems allow them to store the solar collected during the day, and use the energy when prices are higher during peak evening times.

“Looking into the future, with cheaper consumer battery systems becoming available, households may follow UQ down the path of buying and selling energy in real time.”

Universities have proven to be a leader in the adoption of energy storage and microgrid technologies.

In August, the University of Adelaide commenced work on establishing a dedicated microgrid to power its campus, including the deployment of 1.2MW of solar capacity and a 420kW/1200kWh battery storage system.

In 2018, the University of New South Wales installed a series of five 100kWh Tesla Powerpack systems, providing the Sydney-based university with 500kWh of energy storage.

Monash University also committed to establishing a renewably powered microgrid at its Clayton campus, with the assistance of a $3 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

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