Aberystwyth University is set to become one of the greenest campuses in Wales after investing in multiple energy saving initiatives and announcing the development of its very own solar farm, which will power up to a quarter of its electricity needs.
The £2.9m solar array, which will be located on university-owned land adjacent to its Fferm Penglais student accommodation, is expected to cut annual energy bills by over £320,000 and reduce energy related carbon emissions by 8% per year.
Aberystwyth will be one of only a handful of universities in the UK to develop its own full scale solar array. The project is part of wider plans to become carbon neutral by 2030.
Over the last year the university has invested more than £3.4m in energy efficiency projects across the campus including upgrading lighting to more efficient LED models across 14 buildings, installing and optimising Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) throughout the site, making improvements to pipework insulation in plant rooms, adding new modern freezers and plant growth cabinets to replace inefficient units. The university has also upgraded its air handling unit in its zoology facility, as well as the lighting across its greenhouses, which are a key energy user due to its research on carbon capture.
In total, the initiatives installed over the last 12 months will save £350k a year and 900 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The university has also ensured that a large proportion of the works have been carried out by local suppliers and contractors to benefit the local economy.
These projects have been made possible thanks to funding from Salix Finance in partnership with Welsh Government, which provides interest-free loans to the public sector to invest in energy efficient technologies. The university has received over £1.8m of funding from Salix, with the remainder of the projects being financed through a combination of the university’s own capital and a grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).The Salix loans will be paid back over a period of several years from the savings made on the university’s energy bills, making them cost neutral.
Now, the university is looking forward to the next phase of its energy savings plans with the installation of its bespoke 2.5-megawatt solar array. Work on the project, which is due to begin in February 2022, will see approximately 5,000 solar panels installed across a four-hectare facility.
Once operational they will generate approximately 25% of the annual electricity requirements of Penglais Campus – equivalent to the energy used by over 500 homes – which will reduce carbon emissions by 8% a year. Over the lifetime of the panels, the university is expected to save an impressive £18m in electricity costs.
The project will also be supported by Salix with a £2.6m loan through the Wales Funding Programme, with the finance set to be repaid over the course of ten years.
Aberystwyth University pro-vice chancellor, Professor Neil Glasser, who is responsible for the university’s environmental and sustainability policies, said: “As a key employer and land owner in the region, we are committed to doing everything we can to reduce our energy consumption and decarbonize our operations so that we carry out our activities in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way.
“We have invested in multiple energy efficient technologies, conducted research into carbon reduction, and are now looking to make use of the land we own to create our own renewable energy through solar power, all of which will help support our pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030.”