Independent energy consultant Andris Bankovskis has authored a new report which shows that energy consumption could be cut by 60% if homes were designed to generate, store and release their own energy. According to Mr Bankovskis, this could save the average household up to £600 a year. Mr Bankovskis serves as a member of the Panel of Technical Experts, a group appointed by the Government to advise on the technical aspects of Electricity Market Reform.
In addition to the cost saving advantages for the consumer, building ‘homes as power stations’ would also have far reaching benefits for the environment. The report highlights that building one million self-generating homes could reduce peak generating capacity by three gigawatts, equivalent to a large power station. It would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 80 million tonnes over 40 years and be the conduit to a brand new industry in the UK.
We provided integrated photovoltaic solutions for the UK’s first energy-positive classroom in Swansea in 2016, which definitively proved that the concept works. The classroom combined solar and roof storage integrated panels using our Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) technology, with solar heat collection on the south facing walls. Over the six months the classroom has operated it has generated more energy than it has consumed.
The concept of ‘homes as power stations’ is about to be implemented on a far larger scale through the Active Homes Neath Housing development, which was recently granted planning permission. This pioneering new social housing development will be the first of its kind to build 16 new energy generating/saving homes.
In partnership with Neath Port Talbot County, the new development for Pobl Group, the largest housing association in Wales, is being led by Swansea University’s SPECIFIC Innovation & Knowledge Centre and features solar roofs supplied by BIPVco, shared battery storage and the potential for electric vehicle charging. Water waste will be captured and recycled within the building, with water heating coming from solar heat collectors on the south facing walls.
The Active Homes development is hugely significant, as it represents the first opportunity to see the concept tested and used under ‘real life’ conditions. The fact that the project has been designed under a standard design-and-build contract, also means it can be replicated at scale.
Timing is also critical to its success and we believe the time and appetite is ripe for significant wholesale changes to the way we generate and use power. Only this month, the Government announced plans to make it easier to store power in batteries and pledged to phase out new petrol and diesel engines in favour of greener options by 2040. Major car manufacturers including Volvo have demonstrated a similar commitment. The Swedish car manufacturer is promising to only produce electric or hybrid cars from 2019. This is a bold and brave step by a globally recognised manufacturer that will inspire others to follow.
What we need now is to continue to build solid partnerships between universities developing new products with industry that manufacture and distribute them to market, whilst the Government provides the financial and legislative framework to oil the wheels of change. No pun intended!