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Aberystwyth University is investing £2.9m in its own solar farm which will generate a quarter of its electricity needs.

The solar array, which will be located on university-owned land adjacent to its Fferm Penglais student accommodation, is expected to cut the higher education institution’s annual energy bills by over £320,000 and reduce energy related carbon emissions by 8% per year.

Work on the solar farm, which is due to begin next February, will see approximately 5,000 solar panels installed across a four hectare site. Over the lifetime of the panels the university is expected to save £18m in electricity costs.

Aberystwyth will be one of only a handful of universities in the UK to develop its own full scale solar array. The project is part of wider plans to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Over the last year the university has invested more than £3.4m in energy efficiency projects across the campus including upgrading lighting to more efficient LED models across 14 buildings and installing and optimising building energy management systems (BEMS) throughout its campus.

The initiatives installed over the last 12 months will save £350,000 a year and 900 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The university has also ensured that a large proportion of the works have been carried out by local suppliers and contractors.

The projects secured £1.8m funding from Salix Finance, which provides interest free loans to the public sector to invest in energy efficient technologies. Salix Finance is jointly funded by the UK, Welsh and Scottish governments. The remainder of the projects are being financed through a combination of the university’s own capital and a grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

The Salix loans will be paid back over a period of several years from the savings made on the university’s energy bills, making them cost neutral.

Salix, through its Wales funding programme, is also providing a further £2.6m to the university for its solar farm project, with the finance set to be repaid over a ten year term.

Aberystwyth University pro-vice chancellor, Professor Neil Glasser, who is responsible for the university’s environmental and sustainability policies, said: “As a key employer and land owner in the region, we are committed to doing everything we can to reduce our energy consumption and decarbonise our operations so that we carry out our activities in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way.

“We have invested in multiple energy efficient technologies, conducted research into carbon reduction, and are now looking to make use of the land we own to create our own renewable energy through solar power, all of which will help support our pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030.”