Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Solar meadow powers Edinburgh college

Solar panels in a field at Dalkeith
Image caption The site should produce enough electricity to power 170 houses

Edinburgh College is opening what is claimed to be Scotland's first solar meadow.

The five-acre site, at the Midlothian campus in Dalkeith, features more than 2,500 photo-voltaic panels.

The college said the scheme - designed and installed by energy company SSE - would cut its fuel bills.

It will also help to train engineering students and to research the impact on electrical output of environmental factors such as the weather.

Project manager Professor Steve Tinsley told BBC radio's "Good Morning Scotland" programme that some people thought he was "mad".

Image caption Professor Steve Tinsley oversaw the solar meadow project

"But we have produced a fantastic project here," he said.

"Up to this point, Scotland produces 500 kW of solar PV energy. With this project we have now trebled that."

Richard Chandler, SSE's head of Green Deal and Energy Solutions, said: "The Solar Meadow will generate enough energy to power 170 homes.

"It's also a fine example of how industry and education can work well together.

"This project will bring benefits to the college, its students and the wider community as well as further strengthening Scotland's renewable energy resources."

Alana Beaton, from Inverness, who is studying electrical engineering at the college, said she was hoping the college would be able to use the project as an outdoor classroom to help her get a job in the industry.

"Having the solar meadow available means that we're going to have hands-on experience with green energy," she said.

"We know fossil fuels are slowly running out, so green energy is the way forward."

Myth busting

The site, at what used to be the former Jewel and Esk college until the merger which created Edinburgh College six months ago, is one of the most northerly solar power installations in Europe.

Image caption Student Alana Beaton hopes to get a job in renewables when she graduates

Research there will focus on the interplay between biodiversity and solar technology. To help that the entire site will be planted with wild grasses and flowers.

Professor Tinsley said: "This is a significant research facility, and we've had conversations with various universities on how we use it, and attract funding for future projects."

He hopes this will prove wrong the people who thought he was misguided for pushing the project in the first place.

"There are a lot of myths around this, at the moment," he said. "So the nice thing about this project is we can myth-bust all over the place."

"I'm happy for people to contribute all their myths around solar. We'll take them, and we'll test them, and we'll come back and say 'yes you were right', or 'actually this is the situation'."

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