Work begins on Sheffield University solar farm

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Work to install one of the city’s first major solar farms on the roof of a Sheffield University building began this week as part of a £120,000 investment into boosting photovoltaic research.

The Sheffield Solar Farm, which is being funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), will comprise 70m² of photovoltaic panels on the roof of the university’s Hicks building.

The Solar Farm will benefit both the university and photovoltaics researchers, and developers around the UK, who will be able to use it to field-test their new and experimental photovoltaic-cell designs, in a bid to further their knowledge of renewable energy sources. It is thought that the main installation of the Solar Farm will be completed by the beginning of July.

While providing a benchmark for the use of photovoltaics in northerly latitudes, such as the UK, the Sheffield Solar Farm will also be used to provide electricity to the Hicks Building and the National Grid − reducing the university’s carbon footprint.

To monitor the effectiveness of the photovoltaic technology being tried and tested on the roof, equipment will log data and display it on a specially designed website for the Solar Farm. This will include a live webcam and web-feed demonstrating the actual power being generated by each panel, the total power the sun is radiating on the roof and how the weather is affecting the amount of energy produced, as well as offering a comparison of the different photovoltaic technologies.

In the university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, work is already underway to develop new generations of solar cells that will also be put to the test on the Solar Farm.

Dr Alastair Buckley, from the university’s Department of Physics, who is leading the Sheffield Solar Farm project, said: ’We want to find out how new solar technologies perform here in Sheffield and compare them to the existing technologies. This will help to align our research into next-generation cell designs with real-world requirements, as well as informing customers, policy makers and other researchers which technologies are best for the UK.’

Click here to read more on how photovoltaic panels are being integrated into building structures.