'Solar meadow' on college campus is set to blossom

19th April 2013 at 01:00
Renewable energy project and teaching resource to save #163;50K a year on bills

Edinburgh College will next week take a unique step towards a "greener" future with the launch of a solar meadow - a five-acre site with more than 2,500 panels harnessing energy from the sun to save the college tens of thousands of pounds a year.

The #163;1.2 million construction project at the college's Midlothian Campus will generate enough energy to meet the campus's electricity needs and save an estimated #163;50,000 per year on bills for the next two decades. It will reduce the college's carbon emissions by 300,000kg a year.

The site will also act as an outdoor classroom for engineering students at the college, who will be able to monitor and assess the operation and performance of the panels and analyse the interaction between biodiversity and solar technology.

Professor Steve Tinsley, vice-principal of Edinburgh College, who is leading the project, said the initiative was the "first teaching facility of its kind in Scotland".

"[It] will help not only to provide the next generation of engineers with essential skills, but also allow the college to become less reliant on fossil fuel energy," he said.

"It is also fantastic that the project has enabled the college to engage with schools and local community groups to develop their own renewable energy projects.

"It really is giving something back to the local community in more ways than one."

The site will soon become an attraction for tourists visiting the Scottish capital and show that Scotland is making a strong commitment to advancing engineering innovation and developing clean technologies for a low-carbon economy, Professor Tinsley added.

A range of grasses and wildflowers have been planted around the total of 2,560 panels on the meadow.

John Martin, Edinburgh College student association president, said the project would provide "excellent educational opportunities".

"The meadow is an innovative research facility that puts sustainability at its rightful place at the heart of learning and teaching," he said.

Mr Martin said the meadow had not been funded from learning and teaching budgets and that the money saved annually would be directly reinvested in the education of students.

This is "exactly what should happen with any venture within the college", he said.

julia.belgutay@tess.co.uk.

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