New solar panels installed at UWE Bristol’s Frenchay Campus have begun generating electricity to help the university reduce its carbon emissions and energy bills. UWE Bristol is currently 11th in the Green League, an independent ranking of universities’ environmental and ethical performance. It is hoped that the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roofs of the Centre for Sport and Department of Planning and Architecture, along with a range of other initiatives, will help improve this ranking.
The university aims to halve its buildings' carbon emissions by 2021 from 2001 levels and is currently on track to achieve this. It has already been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard for improving its carbon efficiency.
UWE brought in Solarsense, the region’s leading renewable energy specialists, to install a 50kW array of solar panels on the Centre for Sport, where the Kenyan Olympic team has been training for London 2012. The company also fitted a 32kW array on the nearby Planning and Architecture building R2, alongside a solar PV array they installed five years ago on building R1.
Designed to generate about 74,000 kilowatt hours of clean electricity every year, the new arrays will save almost 39 tonnes of carbon dioxide, produced by burning fossil fuels, from being pumped into the atmosphere a year. The systems will also benefit from Feed-in Tariff subsidies that will enable UWE to recover the capital investment in less than eight years as well as providing future income to invest in more energy-saving projects.
The university is already working on just such a project in the form of a massive programme to replace conventional lights with low energy LED lamps. It has fitted LED lamps in external lighting across most of the Frenchay Campus and has now begun installing them in all its 33,000 rooms, including 2,200 student flats.
Students are doing their bit to save energy: a student ‘switch-off’ campaign has cut energy use by 13% overall since 2008, around a fifth of students sign up as ‘Power Rangers’ and the halls of residence compete against each other to shrink energy usage. Academic and support staff are ensuring equipment and lights are only used when necessary, including switching off equipment left on stand-by but still consuming up to 80% of the electricity normally used.
Phil Kearns, UWE’s Estates Operations Manager, said: “We are using the new solar arrays to demonstrate the effectiveness of solar PV. If it proves as successful as we expect, we will be asking the UWE executive board to invest in more PV arrays.”
Richard Harris of Solarsense said: “Installing solar PV panels makes sense three times over for UWE by helping it achieve its goal of halving its carbon emissions, saving on energy costs and producing a good return on its investment.”