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Landmark solar deal set to power the University, lower emissions, and boost sustainability

09 May 2024

The University has signed a landmark new deal that will see up to 65% of our electricity demand supplied through a brand-new renewables project.

Image of solar panels on a solar farm

In a major move towards achieving our 2038 zero-carbon ambitions, we have partnered with leading UK clean energy firm, Environmena, to buy electricity generated from its brand-new solar farm based in Medebridge, Essex. Construction of the farm began in April 2024, with completion expected in autumn 2025. 

Once complete, it will comprise of 104,000 solar panels across 175 acres – the equivalent of 70 football pitches. The contract that secures this investment, known as a Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (cPPA), commits the University to purchase 80% of Medebridge’s total annual generation capacity for the next decade. This significantly reduces our carbon emissions and is enough to power 21,000 homes. 

The site will also help to create a significant increase in biodiversity. It will encourage nesting opportunities for wildlife and improved habitat connectivity through enhancements to the existing hedgerows, as well as planting of native grassland and a wildflower meadow beneath and around the solar arrays. 

Lee Barlow, Finance & Administration Manager and Project Lead in Estates Support, said: “We are proud to announce this landmark agreement, which reinforces our commitment to sustainability whilst delivering value to our students and stakeholders in the form of price certainty and supply stability. Securing this 10-year cPPA is a huge accomplishment and holds special significance as we celebrate the University’s bicentennial year.” 

Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester, added: “As consumers, many of us may have ‘green’ or renewable energy tariffs. These are important, but they don’t put ‘additional’ renewable power into the grid in the same way as a power purchase agreement (PPA). By signing a PPA, we’re supporting not only a greener University of Manchester, but also a greener energy grid across the UK. This PPA is part of a much wider transition away from burning fossil fuels and towards generating significantly cleaner, electrified forms of power.” 

Further information on sustainability strategy 

The University adopted our zero-carbon target in 2019. This goal is being supported by the Directorate of Estates and Facilities, who negotiated this cPPA agreement. Alongside this, they are undertaking other energy saving measures to cut costs and consumption, such as improving the thermal efficiency of our buildings. 

For more information about this deal, please see our press release.

To find out more about our sustainability strategy, visit our environmental sustainability webpage.