The 865kW system has been switched on at the University of Sussex.

What is thought to be the largest solar project of its kind in UK higher education has been switched on at the University of Sussex by Green Party co-leader and local MP Caroline Lucas.

The 865kW system is spread across 29 buildings at the Brighton campus as part of the university’s aims to nearly halve its carbon emissions by 2020 and become one of the most environmentally friendly universities in the country.

It overtakes the University of the West of England’s 450kWp system which had been thought to be the largest rooftop system at a higher education institution when it was installed in August 2016.

Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, visited the university to launch the system, which is expected to provide over 750,000kWh of electricity per year to the campus.

“It was really exciting and a great honour to switch on the biggest solar panel project in UK higher education,” she said.

“Universities are more than just a group of buildings. They are places of innovation and aspiration and have to inspire people into believing they can make a difference. This initiative is hugely welcome and needs to be as bold as possible.”

The switch on: Thaddeus Dell, SAS Energy’s energy solutions consultant; director of estates and facilities management, Simon Neale; Professor Saul Becker, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex; Caroline Lucas, MP; Jolyon Western, University staff member and Anna Watson, PhD student in energy innovation. Image: Stuart Robinson.

The £1.5 million project, delivered in partnership with SAS Energy, Interserve and Sussex Estates & Facilities, is the first key milestone in Sussex’s environmental initiative. This will also see the university replace 27,000 light bulbs with LED lights, improve its heating and cooling systems and installing smart meters across campus.

Simon Neale, the university’s director of estates and facilities management, said: “We already have a beautiful, green campus, surrounded by the South Downs National Park – this project is all about making sure our buildings and our actions as a community are as environmentally-friendly as they can be.

“Sussex has a proud history of cutting-edge research into energy and climate change and so it makes perfect sense that we also lead the way with our actions.”