REP Project

May 1, 2020

Applying physical science expertise to the development of a solar park carbon calculator to inform policy and practice at Lancaster Environment Centre

Paid summer research placement opportunity


Dr Fabio Carvalho (

Dr Alona Armstrong (


Are you interested in climate change and renewable energies? Have you wondered what renewable energy infrastructures do to the ecosystem they are built on, including carbon sequestration? Do you want to find out what the true carbon budget of renewable energy generation is? Are you looking for an opportunity to apply your physical science skills and knowledge to environmental science and develop policy and industry relevant skills?

A funded opportunity is available for a motivated undergraduate student to work with the Energy-Environment research team (@Energy_Environ) at Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC), Lancaster University in a NERC-funded Research Experience Placement (REP) to develop a solar park carbon calculator (SPCC) that incorporates ecosystem carbon cycling alongside technological carbon costs to inform policy and practice within the solar energy sector. The need to gather evidence on the true carbon budget of solar parks is becoming increasingly important due to the recent acceleration of the decarbonisation of the energy supply system and exponential land take for solar parks. However, the carbon budget of solar parks remains a critical knowledge gap, the resolution of which will inform renewable energy technology preference, site location and site management decisions.

What you will do

The project should contribute to maximise the potential for solar parks to sequester carbon alongside associated environmental enhancements to help deliver the UK Government’s target of net environmental gains. With support and guidance from the supervisors, you will:

  1. identify data sources and gather data on the carbon costs of solar energy technology deployed to ground-mounted solar parks;
  2. develop the SPCC concept and model;
  3. apply the SPCC model to case study solar parks;
  4. identify policies the SPCC could inform; and
  5. produce policy- and industry-oriented documentation outlining the SPCC.

You will have the opportunity to contribute to some of the objectives listed above and take the lead on others, depending on your interests and skills. You will be accompanied and supervised by members of the research team, but will be encouraged to work independently and show initiative during data gathering and analyses (e.g., contacting industry partners to request data).

What’s in it for you

You will become an expert in a growing topical field – the ecosystem implications of land-use change for low carbon energy. You will have the opportunity to develop skills in literature review and data gathering, model conceptualisation and report writing, all of which important transferable skills. You will be encouraged to use your initiative as to how to build the SPCC model and analyse the data, capitalising on the skills developed in your degree or potentially developing new skills, depending on your current expertise and interests. You will also have the opportunity to produce outputs relevant to industry stakeholders, policymakers and academic researchers.

In addition, you will be part of a research team and benefit from their expertise within the research topic and develop skills for a postgraduate career in energy-environment interactions, environmental sciences and/or renewable energies. You will be able to use the data collected during the project for any of your undergraduate projects. Further, we anticipate you will be co-author of published papers, subject to contribution. Your work will potentially be part of a lasting legacy to inform solar park planning, development and management in the UK and beyond.

This Research Experience Placement (REP) will pay National Living Wages.


Applicants must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for a REP. Applicants must:

  • Be studying for an undergraduate degree in a quantitative discipline outside of NERC’s scientific remit (e.g., mathematics, statistics, computing, engineering, physics);
  • Be applying for a placement in a different department to their undergraduate degree;
  • Be undertaking their first undergraduate degree studies (or integrated Masters);
  • Be expected to obtain a first or upper second class UK honours degree;
  • Be eligible for subsequent NERC PhD funding (i.e., UK or EU national or have right to remain in the UK).

How to apply

Send a short CV (maximum two A4 pages) and a short letter of motivation (maximum 300 words) to Dr Fabio Carvalho ( by the 29th May 2020. The letter of motivation should highlight why you are interested in the position, what skills you bring and what skills you hope to develop. If you would like to discuss the opportunity prior to applying, please get in touch using the e-mail above.


Deadline for applications: 29th May 2020 (you will be informed if you are shortlisted by 3rd June 2020)

Interview date: 11th June 2020

Start date: 29th June 2020

Latest end date: 25th September 2020

Project duration is 7.9 – 10.6 weeks depending on living wages