Nov 19TH

Pioneering partnership to explore solar farms and agriculture

Higher Education in Northamptonshire have teamed up with the UK’s leading solar energy generator to spearhead an innovative new project aimed at exploring the relationship between solar farms and agriculture.

Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd, Moulton College and the School of Science and Technology of the University of Northampton have joined forces for the two year study.

They are now on the lookout for a suitable post-graduate candidate to lead the research, which will evaluate solar installations as a viable diversification for farm businesses and measure the associated impacts.

It will also create an unbiased, online toolkit that will aim to help farmers and landowners decide whether or not it is sustainable to install solar power.

Dr James Littlemore, senior lecturer in land and environmental management at Moulton College, said: “With farmers and landowners being advised to incorporate energy efficiency into their primary agri-business aims, the need to diversify and include on-farm renewables remains paramount.

“Indeed, farm-based solar energy generation in the form of photovoltaic (PV) installations on rooftops or at a field ‘solar farm’ scale have become increasingly popular.

“Yet there is a lack of information for landowners on how to evaluate solar installations as a farm diversification venture and to better understand the associated impact on the rural business. We hope this study will redress that imbalance.”

The full time Master of Philosophy project is ideally suited to someone with a keen interest in agriculture, farm-scale renewable energy and land management.

It will involve the use of Moulton College’s own facilities including a 550 ha mixed farm, supervision from both the college and the university, as well as working directly with staff from Lightsource, the UK’s leading solar energy generator.

Conor McGuigan, director of development for Lightsource, said: “We have found there to be a real lack of credible information for rural businesses wishing to explore diversification with solar power.

“Demonstrating our commitment to rural communities, we believe that by teaming up with Moulton College and the University of Northampton, that we can create a much needed independent and scientifically-based resource that will provide a sound foundation of information. We hope it will demonstrate that solar power can be a viable and trusted source of sustainable income - the perfect partner for growing business and even succession planning.”

The project - fully funded by the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust and Lightsource - is open to those who have, or expect to receive, a first or upper-second class honours degree, or equivalent or an MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline. The minimum English language proficiency requirement for candidates who have not taken a higher degree at a UK HE institution is an IELTS score of at least 6.5.

Applications open on December 11 and the deadline is January 24 next year.

For more information on the project contact Dr Littlemore at james.littlemore@moulton.ac.uk