COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGE of the solar panels that are being installed at Forrest Hills

Forrest Hills Solar Farm

A 16.5 MW solar farm, comprising of 36,000 individual panels that will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 3000 homes.

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Planning permission granted

Following a remarkable level of feedback in favour of the plans, our planning application was submitted to Lancaster City Council in October 2021. After careful consideration, Planning Officers recommended the plans for approval and in March 2022, the Council formally approved the development.

As part of this commitment the University is electrifying its heat generation through large-scale heat pumps. The electrification of heat demand will eliminate the University’s gas consumption, but will lead to substantially increased electricity consumption. To make this modal shift environmentally and economically sustainable, the University will need to increase its generation of electricity.

Forrest Hills is the only location in the University’s ownership large enough to accommodate a Solar Farm, to provide a substantial contribution to this capacity.

Detailed assessments of the constraints around Forrest Hills indicates that a capacity of approximately 16.5MW could be achieved through the proposed solar farm. The electricity generated will contribute directly to meeting the University’s additional energy demand and significantly contribute to its targets around becoming carbon neutral.

Image to illustrate a potential style of solar panel.
Image to illustrate a potential style of solar panel.

The project

The 16.5MW solar farm will consist of 36,000 individual panels that will span 21 hectares (around 52 acres) of University owned agricultural land at Forrest Hills, part of the University’s conference and events space, just off Bailrigg Campus.

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 panels are composed of photovoltaic cells, which are designed to maximise the absorbency of the sun’s rays whilst minimising solar glare.

The farm will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 3000 homes per year and will reduce annual carbon emissions by more than 2600 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of taking 600 standard cars off the road each year.

Plans include a landscaping scheme that will enhance the hedgerows and woodland, protecting views from local walkers and creating an environment that will support wildlife and increase biodiversity. A Landscape and Visual Assessment was undertaken by The Environment Partnership (TEP), which concluded that ‘Although the character of the site would change as a result of the proposal, the overall landscape character of the wider area would remain predominantly unchanged by the proposed development.’

A technical plan outlining the boundary and solar panel layout at Forrest Hills

Environmental Development

The Solar Farm will be fully reversible in its infrastructure, meaning that the site can be fully restored to its previous state when the solar farm reaches the end of its life. During its time, solar farms naturally become less effective, so the ability to restore natural habitats is important.

Reducing carbon emissions

The University is committed to reducing its energy related carbon emissions to net zero by 2030. The solar farm is a major strategic step forward in achieving this goal; reducing energy related emissions by up to 40%.

The development will contain one Solar PV Farm Sub-station, which is designed to reflect the rural setting, alongside several Inverter Stations. This infrastructure will connect the solar farm to the electricity network at the University’s main campus.

The site access is to be from Hazelrigg Lane. Following construction there will be limited vehicle movements associated with the solar farm.

The development will include boundaries – hedgerows and fencing which reflect the rural character of the area – and CCTV. However, the solar farm will not need to be lit.

Lancaster University's Wind Turbine overlooking South West Campus from the A6
aerial view of Forrest Hills

Landform and location

The site extends approximately 21 hectares and consists of mostly agricultural grassland to the east of Bailrigg Campus. A number of agricultural and ecological assessments were made as part of the planning process to ensure the land was suitable for the development and to ensure minimal disruption to the environment. The spatial layout of the solar array has been designed to follow the existing topography and to retain existing features on site such as hedgerows and woodlands which are part of the character and context of the surrounding countryside.