Siemens to deliver solar farm as part of £1.5m university project

Drone photo of outside ISA building at the University of York.

The University of York has appointed Siemens to deliver a solar farm as part of a £1.5m research project.

The project, which is funded through the UK Research Investment Fund (UKRPIF), will enhance the university’s research capabilities to develop and use AI and robotics to inspect and maintain solar arrays.

The array is expected to be fully operational by July and will enable the University of York’s Institute for Safe Autonomy to become energy self-sufficient.

Professor Miles Elsden, director of the Institute for Safe Autonomy at the University of York, said: “Robotics, autonomous systems and AI have the potential to transform the way we live, travel and work in the future. Integrating them with the production of renewable energy will ultimately play a key role in the journey towards net zero.  

“This innovative research project marks an important milestone for the institute and reaffirms our commitment as a university to sourcing sustainable energy."

Patrick Reilly-O’Donnell, head of project execution at Siemens, said: “The university’s Institute for Safe Autonomy provides a first-class ecosystem for research and innovation in the world of robotics and connected autonomous systems. 

“As we continue to integrate autonomous technology into our everyday lives, understanding how we can safely deploy them to maximise efficiencies within those sectors connected to the green transition is becoming increasingly important.”

The 193 kWp solar farm will create a ‘living lab’ to give insight to landowners and operators of solar farms on how best to integrate robotic technology in the field. 

The project will also enable the institute to become energy self-sufficient by 2025, generating approximately 170 MWh of power annually. 

The farm, which spans more than 1,400 square metres, will consist of a range of different panel configurations including static ground installations and sun-tracking arrays. Solar panels will also be deployed on the side of the institute’s building and the rooftop to maximise light exposure.

Following successful completion of the design phase, installation work will be carried out on site by specialist installer Lynx later this month, with the project expected to be fully operational by July. 

The Institute for Safe Autonomy (ISA) is a new initiative at the University of York which takes a safety critical approach to the design, development and testing of robotics and connected autonomous systems. ISA’s purpose-built facility combines a range of experimental laboratories and test spaces where academics from across the university work closely with industry, government and third-sector partners to explore trustworthy solutions to real-world problems.

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