Lancaster University’s Solar Farm gets the green light

Computer Generated Image of the solar array at Forrest Hills

A 16.5MW photovoltaic solar farm that will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 3000 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 coordinated by the University with 75% of responses commenting in favour of the development.

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. 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.

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% 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.

Some concerns were raised during the consultation phase around glare from the solar panels, in particular in relation to the nearby M6 motorway. Assessments by technical specialists were carried out to explore glint & glare impacts, which concluded that M6 road users would not in practice 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. The proposals received a notably high level of support throughout our consultation and the case for the development was strong. 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.

Since the start of the pandemic, the University has reshaped its Capital Development Programme to dramatically reduce its carbon footprint. Find out more about the Estates Development team, their plans and projects, including plans for the PV Farm by visiting the Lancaster University Estates Development webpages online.

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