Largest Roof Mounted Solar Array In UK University Sector Planned

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) plans to quadruple its solar generating capacity with an impressive 450kWp roof-mounted array at Frenchay Campus. This array is set to be the largest single roof-mounted array in the UK University sector.

UWE Bristol recognises the importance of on-site generation, to support the national decarbonisation agenda, increase energy security and enhance local renewable energy capacity.

The solar array comprising 1,700 modules (450 kWp) will generate over 400MWh/year of electricity to be used 100% within the Frenchay Campus.

It is to be installed on the roof of the University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) in 'T' block as the building is refurbished and the Enterprise Zone takes shape. The Solar PV array will cover the roof of the 10,000 square metre building, and it is hoped it will generate up to half of the energy consumed per year within the building by BRL and the UEZ, both of which are very energy intensive areas of activity.

It is hoped that the £650,000 investment will provide annual savings of £55,000 a year and save around 200 tonnes of carbon per year.

Alongside this PV array the University is developing a Combined Heat and Power system (CHP), which will operate like a small power station on Frenchay Campus. The CHP system will burn gas to generate electricity for use on the campus. The heat generated by burning the gas will be captured and distributed to buildings on campus, via underground pipes. This will be used in buildings such as the new Student's Union, student accommodation and the new FBL building, for heating and hot water, reducing overall emissions for energy use on the Campus.

This CHP and District heating project would save 1,100 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Cllr John Goddard, Chair of South Gloucestershire Council's Resources Sub-Committee, welcomed the initiative.

He said, “We have worked closely with UWE and hope that this new initiative will form part of a wider 'District Heating Network', which we are exploring with our colleagues at Bristol City Council. It is an important step forward when a large institution installs a system like this that demonstrates commitment to alternative forms of energy. We hope this will be the catalyst for other organisations to follow suit.”

Fabia Jeddere-Fisher, from UWE Bristol, said, “The University will use 100% of the power generated by the PV array, so we are not expecting to return any energy back to the grid. A typical household has a 3kW array, so these panels will be equal to nearly 200 homes with solar panels.

“From its conception, we chose a roofing system that would mean the flat roof would not need to be strengthened if we chose to add solar panels. Normally, panels placed on flat roofs require either weighing down, and in turn extra strengthening may be needed, or fixings that penetrate the roof membrane, which can introduce the risk of leaks. The system we have chosen means that the panels are welded into place, reducing load, and reducing the need for roof penetrations and thereby risk of leaks.

“The University is committed to sustainability and energy efficiency, and this project is part of a wider plan to invest in projects that will help the University achieve our carbon reduction goals. As a large organisation we want to set an example for others to undertake similar projects.

“With both the Solar PV and CHP on site, it puts us in a strong position for demand-side response projects, and on-site energy storage, so that energy generated earlier in the day could be stored to be used at peak times (e.g. 5-7pm) when demand on the UK grid is greatest. This not only will reduce fixed charges to the University, but can have a positive impact on the national grid.

“We have had great support from Bristol and South Gloucestershire in getting this going. Many Universities are now using this type of system, so it is not new, but it is a small step forward in aspirations to create a wider regional heat exchange network in the future. Both these initiatives are a small step in the right direction.”

UWE Bristol picked up two awards at the Go Green Business Awards 2016. UWE Bristol's Energy Team picked up the 'Most Improved' award in the 'Energy and Efficiency' category, for a range of initiatives across the different UWE campuses.

UWE Bristol is proud to be supporting Solar Photovoltaic technology and through these actions looks to inspire the next generation of solar technologies and graduates to work in the PV sector.

The University is the first UK University to receive the NUS Responsible Futures Accreditation (under the full scheme). This accreditation recognises the partnership working by the Students' Union at UWE Bristol and the University to promote and embed education for sustainable development (ESD) in its curricula, to help students to understand the sustainability challenge facing society and preparing them to contribute to the green and low-carbon economy.

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