The University of York has appointed Siemens to design and deliver a solar array located at the University’s new Institute for Safe Autonomy (ISA) as part of a £1.5 million research project.

Funded through the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), the project will enhance the Institute’s research capabilities to develop and use AI and robotic systems to inspect and maintain solar arrays.

The 193 kWp solar farm will create a ‘living lab’ to give insight to landowners and operators of solar farms on how best to integrate robotic technology in the field. The project will also enable the Institute to become energy self-sufficient by 2025, generating approximately 170 MWh of power annually.

The farm, which spans more than 1,400 square metres, will consist of a range of different panel configurations including static ground installations and sun-tracking arrays. Solar panels will also be deployed on the side of the Institute’s building and the rooftop to maximize light exposure.

Following successful completion of the design phase, installation work will be carried out on site by specialist installer Lynx, with the project expected to be fully operational by July.

“The University’s Institute for Safe Autonomy provides a first-class ecosystem for research and innovation in the world of robotics and connected autonomous systems,” said Patrick Reilly-O’Donnell, head of project execution at Siemens. “As we continue to integrate autonomous technology into our everyday lives, understanding how we can safely deploy them to maximize efficiencies within those sectors connected to the green transition is becoming increasingly important.”

“Robotics, autonomous systems and AI have the potential to transform the way we live, travel and work in the future. Integrating them with the production of renewable energy will ultimately play a key role in the journey towards net zero,” said Professor Miles Elsden, director of the institute for safe autonomy at the University of York. “This innovative research project marks an important milestone for the Institute and reaffirms our commitment as a university to sourcing sustainable energy."