Universities – Using Solar Energy to Create a Cleaner, Greener Future

Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to find clean and green energy sources to satisfy their energy needs. Early civilizations around the world were driven by the elements – fire, water, air and earth – as these are the sources from which we get our energy needs. These elements connect us to our planet and its resources, as they are abundant and accessible to everyone. As human beings developed ways to better understand and manage the elements, they harnessed them to create a clean and green energy future for all. One such civilization is the University of Nottingham, located in the United Kingdom. One of the first educational establishments in Europe, the university began in 1881 and now has almost 23,000 students. Its main campus is a remarkable structure with three churches, a Roman Catholic chapel, a Baptist chapel and a Quaker meeting house, which are nestled together. In addition to these, the university also has a main hall, the Sir Alf Ramsey Library, the Hockley Centre for Children and a Botanical Garden. Notable alumni of the university include the founder of McDonald’s, Argyll Robertson, inventor Nikola Tesla, founder of Amnesty International, Peter Watson, and former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Aiming for a Sustainable Future

In the last hundred years or so, human interference has taken its toll on the environment. We have altered the climate through burning fossil fuels and chopping down trees. The damage we have done cannot be undone. However, with the onset of climate change, we have an opportunity to start over. If we develop sustainable energy sources and use them to fuel our planet, we can stop polluting the environment and create a cleaner, greener future for everyone. That is the goal of the Sustainable Energy Centre (SustainEN). This is a new facility built on the Notts campus that was officially opened to the public in October 2019.

The SustainEN Centre is the result of a collaboration between Nottingham Trent University and Nuvola Inc, a sustainability software company based in Finland. Together, they aim to reduce the university’s ecological footprint by using renewable energy sources. The centre will be powered by 100% sustainable energy generated by solar energy technologies, including photovoltaic cells, solar thermal generators and wind turbines. The sustainable energy will be stored in a smart energy storage system, which will allow the university to operate with a consistent supply of electricity. In addition to this, a significant number of solar powered devices, including lights, sensors and electric vehicles will be installed across the campus for a more eco-friendly and sustainable way of living.

The opening of the SustainEN Centre shows how a forward-thinking and innovative university like Nottingham Trent University is leading the way in transitioning to a more sustainable future through environmentally and socially responsible actions. In line with the university’s strategy for sustainability, the new centre will reduce its carbon footprint, ensure energy efficiency, increase recycling and reduce food waste. In addition to this, the university has committed to purchasing carbon neutral flight tickets for all new student enrolments and for all staff and contractors. Furthermore, the sustainability team is currently in the process of implementing a zero waste policy, which will focus on reducing landfill waste through increased recycle and reduced waste generations.

SustainEN: An Eco-friendly and Sustainable Innovation Centre

SustainEN was officially opened in October 2019 by the University’s Principal, Professor Anne Lyttleton.

“SustainEN is a stunning example of how a uni can go green. It shows that universities can not only reduce their carbon footprint but also become more sustainable by using renewable energy sources and cutting back on their energy usage. It is also a beautiful structure that exudes much creative artistry and innovation” – Professor Anne Lyttleton.

Located on the Notts campus, the building was designed by the internationally renowned Foster and Partners with HOK associate Ben Draper. The architectural firm, known for their work on iconic structures such as The Spire in Birmingham and Foster + Partners’ St John the Baptist Church in London, were chosen to design the innovative sustainability hub – a structural ‘jewel’ in the campus. The building is made up of four conjoined courtyards, which provide teaching spaces as well as a variety of green areas for the students to enjoy.

The four courtyards are named after prominent British figures in sustainable development: Sir Alf Ramsey, inventor of the rainbow effect; Peter Watson, founder of the Green Party; Rosa Leigh, founder of Waters Abundance; and Dr Rita Blinn, senior scientist and Director of the Sustainability Research Group of the School of Sciences. In addition to these, the sustainability centre houses a water feature pool, recyclable water bottles, energy saving bulbs and smart fridges. Moreover, the sustainability team is also responsible for designing and installing a fully renewable power system across the Notts campus. The power system included a 100 kW solartelephone tower, a 50 kW photovoltaic system, and a 20 kW wind turbine. In addition to this, a solar powered generator, which is able to generate 25 kW of electricity, will be installed at the Nuvola SustainEN centre for use in the university’s common areas. Altogether, these measures will reduce the university’s overall carbon footprint by 70% compared to a standard office building.

The SustainEN Centre is a jewel of the Notts campus, as well as an example of how a forward-thinking university like Nottingham Trent University is leading the way in sustainability, and we could not be more proud to have it as home.

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