Keele University has unveiled multi-million pound plans to generate 80 per cent of its own electricity through solar and wind power.
The ambitious scheme will see up to 26,000 photo-voltaic (PV) panels installed at ground level in fields on the edge of the campus.
Along with two wind turbines, the renewable energy sources will be enough to power teaching blocks, halls of residence and even landmark buildings like Keele Hall and the university chapel.
A planning application is due to be submitted to Newcastle Borough Council in late October or early November, paving the way for the technology to be fitted in 2020.
The land earmarked for it sits next to Springpool wood – not far from the campus border with the Westlands – but is visible on the skyline from as far away as Butterton.
Paul Evans, a consultant for Wardell Armstrong, stressed the PV panels would be low-lying on the landscape and partly hidden by hedgerows. The two turbines would be no taller than 100 metres.
He said: “We’ve done background noise checks and, effectively, you won’t be able to hear them. The motorway already generates some noise there.
“In terms if the wind turbines, in particular, there are a number of things we have had to be aware of when identifying possible sites. They have to be below radar and can’t interfere with mobile phone links.”
The scheme is part of Keele University’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels.
As the campus grows in line with student numbers, it will place greater demands on energy supplies.
The university currently generates around five per cent of its own energy, with solar panels on some of its buildings, a biomass boiler and a combined heat and power engine.
But the new investment would dramatically increase the potential of becoming virtually self-powered. Any surplus electricity would be stored in batteries, ready to use when wind and solar energy levels fall.
A community consultation was held at Keele yesterday and a further drop-in event is planned for the coming weeks before the application is submitted. Organisers say feedback do far has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’.
Phil Butters, director of estates and development at the university, said: “This project is a vital part of our plans to take responsibility to reduce our environmental impact and help to deliver a more environmentally sustainable future for the university campus.”
It also ties in with Keele’s new smart energy demonstrator (SEND), where staff are turning the campus into a giant laboratory for trialling new energy efficient ideas and green fuel.
They will be working with local firms to test out products.
The university, which is spread across 600 acres, is currently home to 10,000 students, 2,000 staff and a variety of businesses on its science and innovation park.
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