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York’s robotics research centre awarded £1.5m to build solar farm

Posted on 16 May 2022

The University of York is to be the location for a new £1.5m solar farm project.

Inside the Institute for Safe AutonomyThe solar farm is one of nine projects to receive funding to improve environmental sustainability. Photo credit: Tilbury Douglas / John Kees.

Located at the University's new Institute for Safe Autonomy (ISA), the facility will cover an area of around 1000-1500 square meters and will power around 80% of the building’s expected daily usage.

Funded through the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), the facility will enhance the Institute’s research capabilities by providing a 'living lab', which will allow researchers to safely develop and use robots to inspect and maintain the solar farm.

The project will enable the Institute to become energy self-sufficient and help meet the University’s net-zero targets.


Professor Miles Elsden, Director of the Institute for Safe Autonomy, said the panels will provide around 200 kW of power to the building.

He said: "The facility will be made up of a range of different panel configurations - from static ground installations to sun-tracking arrays and vertical towers, to panels deployed on the side of the building and its rooftop.

"It is a really exciting and innovative project that shows our commitment as a University to sourcing sustainable energy."

Energy efficiency

The new facility will be coupled with 'Internet of Things' (IoT) technology that will be used to further increase the energy efficiency of the Institute to meet the remaining 20% of the building's energy needs.

The solar farm is one of nine projects that are set to improve environmental sustainability, thanks to almost £19 million of funding from UKRPIF.

The investment will support universities to enhance, upgrade and adapt research centres and facilities to reduce their carbon emissions, and make research processes more environmentally sustainable.

As 23% of the UK’s CO2 is emitted from buildings and building usage, the nine projects will contribute to the government’s target to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 and achieve net-zero by 2050. 

Further information:

ISA Net Zero Project

The University of York's Institute for Safe Autonomy is a new £45m initiative supported by UKRPIF funding due for completion in early 2022. The Institute provides an interdisciplinary hub for academics from across the University to work with industry, government and the public to find solutions to the real-world challenges in assuring the safe roll-out of robotic and connected autonomous systems.

The £1.52m UKRPIF Net Zero award will enable the deployment of a photovoltaic (PV) array near to the building that, together with an enhanced, IoT-driven, building management system, will enable the Institute to become energy self-sufficient.

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Tom Creese
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