The co-leader of the Green Party switched on more than 3,000 solar panels at the University of Sussex yesterday (October 13), which aims to halve its carbon emissions by 2020.
The solar project is the largest of its kind in UK higher education, as Sussex bids to become one of the most environmentally friendly universities in the country.
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, visited the university to flick the switch to the panels, which will provide over a quarter of a million kilowatt hours of electricity per year to the campus, enough to power the university’s library for 12 months.
Ms Lucas said: “It was really exciting and a great honour to switch on the biggest solar panel project in UK higher education.
“To think this is happening right here in Brighton and Hove is fantastic, and is exactly where our city should be.
“Universities are more than just a group of buildings. They are places of innovation and aspiration and have to inspire people into believing they can make a difference.
“This initiative is hugely welcome and needs to be as bold as possible. Congratulations to everyone involved in making this happen.”
A student and member of staff who won an internal competition were invited to join the MP at the big switch on.
Anna Watson, a PhD student in energy innovation, said: “It was an honour to make this the sunniest Friday 13th on record. I’m proud to see Sussex leading the way in driving low-carbon innovation.”
Anna was joined by Jolyon Western, a student life adviser, who said: “I have solar water and solar electric panels on my own home and welcome Sussex’s decision to participate further in the vital transition to renewables.”
The £1.5-million project is the first key milestone in Sussex’s environmental initiative, which will also see the university replacing 27,000 light bulbs with more efficient LED lights, improving its heating and cooling systems and installing smart meters across campus. It will also be looking to replace current energy systems with more sustainable alternatives.
Simon Neale, the university’s director of estates and facilities management, said: “We already have a beautiful, green campus, surrounded by the South Downs National Park - this project is all about making sure our buildings and our actions as a community are as environmentally-friendly as they can be.
“Sussex has a proud history of cutting-edge research into energy and climate change and so it makes perfect sense that we also lead the way with our actions.”
An ongoing project funded by Research Councils UK and led by Professor Jan Selby and the DEMAND Centre, looking at how non-energy policies and practices can have knock-on effects on energy demand, will be used to inform the programme.
Professor Selby took part in a panel discussion with Professor Joseph Alcamo, director of the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme, Dr Florian Kern, co-director of the Sussex Energy Group, Caroline Lucas and Simon Neale following the switch on. The discussion was chaired by Sussex alumnus, Leo Hickman, editor of Carbon Brief.
The solar project is being delivered in partnership with SAS Energy, Interserve and Sussex Estates and Facilities.