A SOLAR array producing at least a quarter of the electricity required by Aberystwyth University’s Penglais Campus has been officially opened today (Thursday 9 March 2023) by the Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS.
The green electricity development is expected to reduce the University’s carbon emissions by over 500 tonnes a year as well as deliver annual energy cost savings of over £450,000 based on current prices.
Covering 3.8 hectares of land belonging to the University on Fferm Penglais, the array includes around 4,500 individual solar panels.
Construction on the site has also included work to encourage greater biodiversity in surrounding hedgerows and drainage basins. With the development now fully operational, sheep can continue to graze the pasture around the panels.
The £2.9m investment has been supported by the Welsh Government Energy Service and funded by a £2.6m loan from Welsh Government via Salix Finance Ltd and the University, with support from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).
Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “I am delighted Aberystwyth University have progressed this solar development. The technical support from Welsh Government’s Energy Service and zero interest finance from the Wales Funding Programme operated on Welsh Government’s behalf by Salix Finance Ltd, has been vital to deliver the scheme.
“At times of high electricity prices, the return on this investment will be even greater than first envisaged. The way the scheme has delivered demonstrates once again that investing in clean energy can result in financial and carbon savings whilst enhancing biodiversity.”
Professor Neil Glasser, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Earth & Life Sciences at Aberystwyth University, said: “As a University we are committed to tackle the challenges of climate change in as many ways as possible. We do so not only through our research and teaching but also through our strategic institutional aims. This solar array marks another key milestone towards the University’s aim of becoming a zero-carbon estate by 2030/31 and we are grateful to all those involved in this important development.”
Mark Williams, Partnerships Director at Vital Energi said: “It’s a privilege to work alongside public sector organisations, such as Aberystwyth University, to help them meet their net zero targets and we’re delighted the first two phases of our work with them have had such a positive impact with respect to reducing both their emissions and their energy bills. The solar array was a significant investment by the University to deliver an innovative project and we’re sure it will be an inspiration to other organisations looking to decarbonise.
Joan Dayap, Programme Manager, Wales Team Salix Finance said: “Salix are proud to be supporting Aberystwyth University in decarbonising its estate with £2.6m of funding from the Wales Funding Programme, delivered in partnership with the Welsh Government and the Welsh Government Energy Service. The Solar PV array will generate financial savings for the University of over £450,000 at current energy prices and more than 500 tonnes of carbon annually. The University is a brilliant example of the innovative work taking place across the education sector in Wales, playing a crucial role in the nation’s journey towards net zero.”
Over the past 10 years, Aberystwyth University has reduced its CO2 emissions by over 40 per cent and in 2019, the institution made a formal climate emergency declaration.
In addition to the solar project at Fferm Penglais, the University has been working closely with the Welsh Government Energy Service which has provided a range of technical and commercial support to help identify, develop and deliver suitable green projects.
In 2020, the University joined a consortium of UK universities to strike a £50m landmark green energy deal – the first time public energy users had collaborated on a deal of this kind to buy clean electricity.