104,000 panel solar farm set to power The University of Manchester

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

We have set ambitious goals to reduce our environmental impact, in line with our core goal of social responsibility. In 2022 we ended investments in coal, oil and gas and reduced the carbon intensity of our investments by 37%.

In a major move towards achieving our 2038 zero carbon ambitions, the University has partnered with leading UK clean energy company Enviromena to buy electricity generated from its brand-new solar farm based in Medebridge, Essex.

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 (58 GWh) for the next decade, reducing University carbon emissions by 12,000 t/co2 every year – enough to power 21,000 homes.

Construction of Medebridge commenced in April 2024, with energisation expected in autumn 2025. Once complete, Medebridge Solar Farm will comprise 104,000 solar panels across 175 acres of low-grade agricultural land, the equivalent of around 70 football pitches.

Lee Barlow, Finance & Administration Manager, and Project Lead at The University of Manchester, said: “The journey has been marked by unprecedented challenges in the energy and renewables sector, first with the 2022 energy crisis, and later complicated by geopolitical events in Eastern Europe. Securing this 10-year cPPA despite such adversity is a huge accomplishment and holds special significance as we celebrate the University’s bicentennial year.”

Carly McLachlan, Professor Climate and Energy Policy and Academic Lead for Carbon at the University, added: “The really important thing for us in developing this relationship was that our commitment would add new renewable energy capacity to the UK electricity system. Through our long-term purchasing commitment, we have played a key role in bringing this development forward – maximising the positive impact of our purchasing power.”

Dr Julian Skyrme, the University’s Director of Social Responsibility, said: “As consumers many of us may have ‘green’ or renewable energy tariff. These are important, but they don’t put ‘additional’ renewable power into the grid in the same way as a power purchase agreement. 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 more cleaner, electrified forms of power.”

Lee Adams, Enviromena’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Enviromena is leading the charge towards a world powered by clean energy and our teams are delivering high volume projects that make a massive contribution to lowering carbon emissions. This significant partnership with The University of Manchester demonstrates the shared commitment between ourselves and an influential, large-scale organisation, which, at the time it celebrates its 200-year anniversary, is taking steps towards reducing its carbon footprint through the technologies of tomorrow for a cleaner future energy supply.”

Chris Marsh, Enviromena’s Chief Executive Officer, added: “We’re delighted to partner with the University to support their zero carbon ambitions. In addition to reducing the University’s carbon emissions over the next 10 years, the site itself will benefit the local habitat over its useful life until mid-2060.”

The site will also create a significant biodiversity net gain. With enhancements to the existing hedgerows and planting of native grassland and wildflower meadow beneath and around the solar arrays, the site will encourage nesting opportunities for wildlife and improved habitat connectivity.