Solar panels slated to make £13m saving for Aberystwyth University

The installation of more than 4,500 individual solar panels by Aberystwyth University is forecast to cut its gas- and electricity-related emissions by 8%

Aberystwyth University has consolidated its increasingly green reputation by beginning the construction of an expansive new solar photovoltaics (PV) array.

The £2.9m project will see more than 4,500 individual solar panels installed in a 3.8 hectare site by the end of July, enough to supply up to a quarter of the annual demand for electricity on the Penglais campus.

The power generated is forecast to reduce annual gas- and electricity-related emissions by 8% across the university, helping it hit a target of becoming a zero-carbon estate by 2030/31.

In November we reported on how Aberystwyth had invested more than £3.4m in energy efficiency projects, including upgrades to energy efficient lighting, installation of energy management systems, and improvements to pipework insulation.

“Aberystwyth University has made some strong progress in meeting its carbon reduction targets and the solar PV array is another significant investment which shows how committed it is to achieving net zero,” said Scott Lutton of Vital Energi, the company responsible for the panels’ installation.

“Whilst the primary driver for this project has been carbon reduction, renewable electricity has the additional benefit that it will insulate the university from the rising price of energy.”

Read more: Use and waste less energy – reducing consumption ultimately reduces costs

The project is currently slated to deliver savings of over £325,000 per annum, equating to more than £13m over the 25-year working life of the project.

The same period is expected to see a 12,000-tonne reduction in the institution’s carbon emissions, building on its 40% cut in emissions over the last decade.

Much of the investment for the solar PV array has come from Salix Finance Ltd, the non-departmental government body providing funding for public sector energy efficiency initiatives.

“Salix are proud to be supporting Aberystwyth University in delivering this phase of their Re:Fit Scheme, with £2.6m of funding from the Wales Funding Programme, in partnership with the Welsh government,” said Hayley Bristow, programme coordinator at Salix.

“The solar PV array project will play an important role in the work to decarbonise the public sector in Wales, with more than 500 tonnes of carbon estimated to be saved each year”.

The solar PV array is another significant investment which shows how committed the university is to achieving net zero – Scott Lutton, Vital Energi

Besides the array of solar PV, work on the site also includes moves to encourage greater biodiversity in surrounding hedgerows. Sheep will return to graze the pasture around the panels, once installation is complete.

“[We were] approached back in 2018 to evaluate Aberystwyth University’s renewables potential,” said Brian Drysdale, development manager for the Welsh Government Energy Service.

“We helped identify an appropriate site by carrying out initial feasibility modelling, and we provided advice on the development of a business case to secure the investment needed.”

Aberystwyth is also a member of a consortium of UK universities behind a £50m green energy deal, the first time public energy users have collaborated on a partnership of this kind to buy clean electricity.

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