Lancaster University solar farm gets green light

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A 16.5MW photovoltaic solar farm that will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 3,000 homes has been awarded planning permission by Lancaster City Council.

Lancaster University submitted the planning application in October 2021 following a successful consultation feedback period.

The catalyst for the 21-hectare development, to be built on university-owned land at Forrest Hills, was the university’s commitment to become net zero for utility-based energy emissions by 2030.

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As well as generating green energy that will be used to power its Bailrigg campus, the solar farm will save approximately 2,654 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, the equivalent to 600 standard cars being taken off the road each year.

The solar farm at Lancaster University has been given the given light.The solar farm at Lancaster University has been given the given light.
The solar farm at Lancaster University has been given the given light.

Paul Morris, director of capital projects and estate development at Lancaster University, said: “Lancaster University is already the highest producer of renewable energy of all UK universities and has already reduced its electricity and heating emissions by 50 per cent since 2005. The solar farm will reduce our ‘scope 1 & 2’ emissions further, seeing a reduction of our utility related emissions by more than 40%, which is a critical strategic step in our drive for net-zero.”

The approved plans allow around 36,000 panels to be installed in the land adjacent to Proctor Moss and the River Conder, which has previously provided grazing land and open countryside. The plans include a landscaping scheme to enhance the hedgerows and woodland, protecting views from local walkers and creating an environment that will support wildlife and increase biodiversity.

The land is also used by Green Lancaster, a collaborative initiative between the university and Students’ Union aimed at engaging with staff and students on sustainability focused projects and activities. The team have been involved with the project at various points throughout the planning phase and have secured new sites to develop woodland and maintain natural habitats, all aimed at making use of the land around the solar farm.

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Some concerns were raised during the consultation phase around glare from the solar panels, in particular in relation to the nearby M6. Assessments by technical specialists were carried out to explore glint and glare impacts, which concluded that M6 users would not experience reflections due to the distance, landform, hedges and trees.

Each 1.75metre high, dual-facing, panel will be arranged in rows 8.7metres in length with three metre gaps between each row. The panels will be connected to a series of small inverter stations and a substation that will be clad in stone and slate to fit with the surrounding environment.

The university worked with consultants Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE) during the planning phase to co-ordinate the consultation process and subsequent planning application.

Helen Clarkson, associate director for planning and development – CBRE, said: “Gaining the planning permission needed for the development of this site is a strong step forward for the university, and for Lancaster City Council.

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“The result will secure Lancaster University’s place as a leading pioneer university in the UK for environmental sustainability and we look forward to commencing the next stage of the project.”

With planning permission now granted, the next stage of the project is to plan the delivery phase.

The university supports a preferred supplier framework that considers local contractors, their carbon footprint and their ability to ensure the contractor is awarded fairly and responsibly.