Green transformation for UK science estate

Diamond Light Source, part of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at Harwell Campus

Leading science research organisation, The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), is undergoing a green transformation, including creating one of the largest solar car ports in the country.

The STFC has implemented an action plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. This includes installing 12,300 solar panels across two national laboratories in Oxfordshire and the Liverpool City Region.

The sites, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and Daresbury Laboratory, now house three solar car ports in the UK and some of its largest facilities are now covered with solar roof mounts.

At the RAL site in Oxfordshire, STFC is likely to produce energy that equals a carbon reduction equivalent to 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

The 8,000 solar panels are due to generate 3,450 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy each year. This is equivalent to enough electricity to power around 1,100 homes for a year.

Without the solar installations, this energy would still be purchased direct from the national grid, which would cost an estimated £515,000 a year.

As part of the journey to sustainable science, both RAL and Daresbury have also installed more electric car charging ports.

STFC Executive Chair Professor Mark Thomson said: “STFC strives to be a leader in energy solutions in both the research and innovation it funds, and its own practices. We are committed to securing an environmentally sustainable future and we want to be at the forefront of critical change.

“Our facilities are unique and our infrastructure is complex. To utilise our impressive experiments and facilities to achieve world-leading science, the energy requirements are very large.

“We have had to seek out novel but attainable solutions to make real and lasting progress towards net zero.”

The combined result of STFC’s projects to install solar panels has achieved a total carbon reduction of 1,080 tonnes, equivalent to annual carbon emissions for around 1,200 domestic UK homes.

STFC secured funding of around £6 million through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme to part fund this work, which is vital in the drive towards its ambitious sustainability.

Jo Colwell, STFC Head of Environmental Sustainability, said: “In the bid for net zero, it is clear that time is of the essence to make substantial changes.

“With the support of STFC laboratory colleagues and key partners this investment of resource has enabled us to make substantial progress in reducing our carbon emissions.

“With each step towards decarbonising our estate, we are securing an environmentally sustainable future to continue our world-class contributions to outstanding science.”

Some of RAL’s scientific facilities onsite, and on the wider Harwell Campus, include:

Central Laser Facility (CLF)

The Central Laser Facility’s high power lasers can recreate the conditions inside stars while its small, compact lasers have medical, security and environmental applications.

ISIS Neutron and Muon Source

The ISIS Neutron and Muon Source is a centre for research in the physical and life sciences. Our suite of neutron and muon instruments give unique insights into the properties of materials on the atomic scale. ISIS supports a national and international community of more than 2,000 scientists. The facility has published around 12,000 papers during its lifetime, making it one of the most productive facilities of its type in the world.

RAL Space

RAL Space carries out science research and technology development and has been involved in more than 210 spacecraft. Working throughout the lifecycle of space missions, RAL Space leads concept studies for future missions, designs and builds instruments, provides space test and ground-based facilities, operates ground stations, and processes and analyses data.

Diamond Light Source

Diamond Light Source is the UK national synchrotron radiation facility, which generates brilliant beams of light from infrared to X-rays. These highly focused beams of light enable scientists and engineers to probe deep into the basic structure of matter and materials, answering fundamental questions about everything from the building blocks of life to the origin of our planet.

The Satellite Applications Catapult

The Satellite Applications Catapult is one of 10 UK network technology and innovation centres that helps organisations make use of, and benefit from, satellite technologies, and bring together multidisciplinary teams to generate ideas and solutions in an open innovation environment. This catapult has incorporated the activities of the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) into its programme.

Scientific Computing Department

The Scientific Computing Department (SCD) manages high performance computing facilities, services and infrastructure, supporting some of the UK’s most advanced scientific facilities. Our staff provide the computational expertise, services and products that help the scientific community to make vital discoveries and deliver progress. We are leaders in the advancement and support of scientific computing, carrying out research and development to gather and interpret results quickly and clearly. Whether it’s creating new computational science software, helping to visualise complex scientific results, or developing the infrastructure that allows us to process huge amounts of data, research and development from SCD is driving improvements across the scientific research landscape.


STFC technology ranges from the very small – micro-nano-engineering – to the very large – major engineering structures. The experiments on the Large Hadron Collider depend on key components delivered by us. We have provided key technologies for some of the world’s best telescopes.

The calibre and expertise of our staff, and our project and quality management expertise, enables us to deliver unique and advanced high performance engineering projects.