May 10, 2024

104,000 Solar Panels to Power the University of Manchester

The University of Manchester has made a significant stride towards its goal of achieving zero carbon emissions by 2038 by teaming up with Enviromena, to purchase electricity generated from a new solar farm located in Medebridge, Essex, thereby securing up to 65% of its electricity requirements.

Solar Project Built on 175 Acres

In honour of its bicentennial anniversary, the University has partnered with Enviromena, a UK clean energy firm, to source electricity from its newly established solar farm in Medebridge, Essex. This collaboration represents a significant stride towards the University's goal of achieving zero carbon emissions by 2038.

The Medebridge Solar Farm, upon completion, will feature 104,000 solar panels sprawled across 175 acres of low-grade agricultural land, coupled with initiatives to enhance biodiversity through the improvement of hedgerows and the creation of native grassland and wildflower meadows.

Facilitated by a Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (cPPA), the University has committed to purchasing 80% of Medebridge's total annual generation capacity for the next decade. According to the University's website, this agreement is poised to slash University carbon emissions by 12,000 t/co2 annually, an amount sufficient to power 21,000 homes, further cementing the University's dedication to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Success Amidst Challenges

Lee Barlow, Finance & Administration Manager, and Project Lead at The University of Manchester, expressed pride in announcing this significant agreement after nearly three years of rigorous procurement and negotiations.

“We are pleased to announce this historic deal, which strengthens our commitment to sustainability while providing the best value to our students and stakeholders in the form of supply stability and pricing certainty, after nearly three years of arduous procurement and discussions,” Barlow mentioned.

Barlow acknowledged the challenges faced during the procurement process, including the 2022 energy crisis and geopolitical events in Eastern Europe. Despite these obstacles, securing the 10-year cPPA is seen as a remarkable accomplishment, especially as the University celebrates its bicentennial year.

Carly McLachlan, Professor of Climate and Energy Policy and Academic Lead for Carbon at The University of Manchester emphasized the significance of their commitment to adding new renewable energy capacity to the UK electricity system. By making a long-term purchasing commitment, they have played a pivotal role in advancing this development and leveraging their purchasing power for maximum positive impact.

McLachlan stated, “For us, the key factor in building this connection was that our promise would increase the amount of renewable energy available to the UK electricity grid.”

Towards Net Zero Emissions

The achievement resulted from collaboration within the University's team, aided by their energy broker, Inspired PLC, and external legal counsel from Eversheds Sutherland, while Enviromena, specializing in renewable energy asset management, maintains a portfolio of over 300MW and is developing projects exceeding 3GW in the UK and Italy to reduce carbon emissions and advance the transition to net zero emissions.

Lee Adams, Chief Commercial Officer at Enviromena, underscored the company's pivotal role in advancing clean energy initiatives and executing large-scale projects aimed at substantial carbon emissions reduction. The collaboration with The University of Manchester signifies a shared dedication to embracing cutting-edge technologies for a sustainable energy future, particularly as the University marks its 200-year milestone with proactive steps towards carbon footprint reduction.

Chris Marsh, Chief Executive Officer of Enviromena, expressed enthusiasm about partnering with the University to support its zero carbon objectives. Beyond merely reducing the University's carbon footprint over the next decade, the Medebridge site is poised to positively impact the local ecosystem throughout its operational lifespan until the mid-2060s. Construction of Medebridge commenced in April 2024, with plans for energization by autumn 2025, marking a significant milestone in the journey towards sustainable energy solutions.

Driven by its fundamental value of social responsibility, The University of Manchester has set ambitious environmental targets, including divestment from coal, oil, and gas investments in 2022. This proactive stance has resulted in a notable 37% reduction in the carbon intensity of its investment portfolio, aligning with its broader commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

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