Edinburgh college powered by new solar meadow

Electrical engineering student Alana Beaton views the meadow at Edinburgh College's Midlothian campus. Picture: Jon Savage
Electrical engineering student Alana Beaton views the meadow at Edinburgh College's Midlothian campus. Picture: Jon Savage
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SCOTLAND’S first solar meadow has been switched on – helping one of the Capital’s largest educational institutions become energy self-sufficient.

The £1.2 million solar panel array at Edinburgh College’s Midlothian campus will generate enough electricity each year to meet the college’s needs and reduce annual carbon emissions by 300,000 kilogrammes.

Situated on one of the most northerly sites for solar power in Europe, the array’s 2560-panel meadow will also be planted with wild grasses and flowers, enabling advanced study of the interaction between nature and cutting-edge renewables technology.

Professor Steve Tinsley, of the college’s corporate development team, hailed the project as “unique”. He said: “The solar meadow is the first ­teaching facility of its kind in Scotland that will help not only to provide the next generation of engineers with essential skills, but also allow the college to become less reliant on fossil fuel energy.”

As well as an annual electricity output of 560,000kWhrs – enough to power 170 homes – the Scottish and Southern Energy-designed meadow will function as an outdoor ­classroom, allowing students to develop much-needed skills for Scotland’s burgeoning ­clean-tech industries.

College bosses also said ­students using the site would be assisted in data collection and analysis by research staff at Edinburgh Napier University.

“In creating the solar meadow we are able to show that Scotland is making a strong commitment to advancing engineering innovation and developing clean technologies for a low carbon economy,” said Prof Tinsley.

“It is also fantastic that the project has enabled the ­college to engage with schools and community groups to develop their renewable energy projects.”

Electrical engineering ­student Alana Beaton, 23, said: “We’ve studied ­renewable and green technology within the electrical engineering course, and a great importance is placed on sustainable ­engineering, so the fact that the college has taken this on board and is using this technology is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Environmentalists hailed the project as a shining example for other organisations.

Dr Sam Gardner, senior ­climate change policy officer at WWF Scotland, said: “Even in Scotland it is possible to ­harness solar power. We hope the learning from this will be shared with other colleges and inspire them to seize the opportunities of renewable power.”

Chas Booth, energy spokesman for Edinburgh City Council’s Green group, said: “This is exactly the sort of initiative we need to help the environment.

“Solar panels are good news whichever way you look at it.”

Richard Chandler, SSE head of green deal and energy solutions, said: “This project will bring benefits to the college, its students and the wider community as well as further strengthening Scotland’s renewable energy resources.”