Plans for UK leading City Deal housing development have been submitted to Neath Port Talbot Council
“Homes as Power Stations” is being led by Neath Port Talbot Council and is one of the biggest Swansea Bay City Deal projects which could kick start a construction programme with a projected investment of over £500m when the concept is operational across the region. A site in Neath has been chosen to demonstrate this innovative housing project; a concept where buildings can generate, store and release their own energy; helping to reduce fuel poverty and its impact on health and wellbeing. The aim is to eventually roll out the concept across the Swansea Bay City Region area to both new housing projects and retrofitting existing homes. If approved, work on the pilot development is expected to start at the end of 2017/early 2018. The proposed development will provide 16 new homes on the site of the former Hafod Care Home, Neath, with easy access to shops and local amenities. There will be eight 2 and 3 bedroom homes and eight 1 bedroom apartments. Designed to be an exemplar low cost energy positive pilot project, the aim is to show how applying innovative technology including integrated renewable technologies and energy efficient materials to the design, building and operating of such homes can reduce energy consumption and provide a healthier home environment for people. The application has been made by the Council’s partners Pobl Group supported by SPECIFIC who developed the innovative technology here in Neath Port Talbot, putting Wales at the forefront of global renewable energy technology. Based on Baglan Energy Park, SPECIFIC is a national Innovation and Knowledge Centre led by Swansea University with partners from academia, industry and government. SPECIFIC aims to develop functional coated materials that will transform the outer skin of buildings into surfaces that generate, store and release energy. By turning buildings into power stations these new products will revolutionise the construction sector - delivering considerable renewable energy and a reduction in carbon dioxide emission plus jobs in high-value manufacturing.
Elfed Roberts, Head of Projects Pobl Group said:
“Pobl is very pleased and excited to be working on this innovative housing project in Neath. The project would enable us for the first time to demonstrate the benefits that the latest technologies can bring to affordable housing developments, and to drastically reduce fuel poverty and carbon emissions. “We are aiming to achieve homes that feel homely and pleasant to live in, but that also generate most of their energy needs from the roof and wall coverings; thus dramatically reducing the bills for our tenants. The latest solar power technologies will be seamlessly integrated into the external walls and roofs of the homes, along with the latest battery technologies for storing electricity. Much of our design work is being informed by our partnership with SPECIFIC, based in nearby Baglan, who have considerable expertise in the latest building technologies. “Ultimately Pobl wants this type of project to become the norm for both rented and owner-occupied housing. Crucially, we are aiming for a future where the manufacturing of the materials and components for these homes will be sourced locally from within the County of Neath Port Talbot and South Wales.”
Neath Port Talbot Council:
“One of the key drivers for the Swansea Bay City Deal and Valley Taskforce is to establish our region as a pioneer and leader in energy, health, manufacturing and creative technologies “The “Homes as Power Stations” concept has the potential to make a huge contribution to addressing energy efficiency and fuel poverty, and in turn improve the wellbeing of the people in our communities. “We also want to see the benefits of what is developed locally exploited locally and this project in particular would not only safeguard and create thousands of jobs in our construction industry, but develop a highly technologically advanced and skilled large-scale supply chain. “City Deals are long term plans but I am very pleased to see that our partners have worked quickly to get to this first step in delivering what is one of the biggest City Deal projects.”
Kevin Bygate, Chief Executive Officer, at SPECIFIC said:
“We are proud to have supported Pobl in the development of this landmark housing development. Not only will these houses be comfortable and affordable to run, but collectively they have the potential to reduce stress on the local electricity grid. Building thousands of houses like this removes the needs to build new power stations”
Great news for SPECIFIC as UK Government encourages consumers to generate, store and release their own energy.
The UK Government has unveiled plans to give homes and businesses more control over their energy use by supporting innovation in battery storage technology. It is predicted that consumers could save £17bn to £40bn by 2050. This announcement sits directly in-line with Swansea University-led project, SPECIFIC’s vision of ‘Buildings as Power Stations’ as consumers are being encouraged to generate, store and release their own energy from their homes. Current ‘rules’ around surplus energy export will be changed as well as a huge investment into battery technology as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. The new ‘rules’ are due to come into effect over the next year and will make it easier for people to generate their own power with solar panels, store it in batteries and sell surplus energy to the National Grid. They will remove the current tariffs that homes with solar panels face when exporting and importing electricity; allowing them to use their electricity in a more flexible way that would benefit the UK. They will also reduce costs to households that use their energy in a ‘smart’ way e.g. allowing their freezer to be turned off for a few minutes during peak times or setting their washing machine to start during a sunny afternoon to maximise the use of solar. To make solar power generation and storage more affordable for consumers, technological advances in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries will be vital. Thus, Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark announced (on 24th July) that a £264 million investment into battery technology in Britain is to be launched. Known as the Faraday Challenge, the 4-year investment is a key part of the government’s Industrial Strategy that will deliver a coordinated programme of competitions that will aim to boost both the research and development of expertise in battery technology. It is likely to have particular benefits in the automotive sector and renewable energy sector. Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said: “Batteries will form a cornerstone of a low carbon economy, whether in cars, aircraft, consumer electronics, district or grid storage. To deliver the UK’s low-carbon economy we must consolidate and grow our capabilities in novel battery technology.” Examples of buildings that use batteries to store and release their own solar energy are already in existence via SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre. In 2015, the ‘Buildings as Power Stations’ concept was demonstrated in a house; and in 2016, the ‘Active Classroom’ was built to showcase that the technologies can also be applied in a public building. It is the first time that saltwater batteries have been used at large scale in the UK, showcasing innovative features such as non-toxic materials, no maintenance and daily charge / recharge optimisation. Paul Jones, Technical Director at SPECIFIC said, “With the success of our demonstrator building, The Active Classroom, we are excited to now be working with POBL and Neath Port Talbot Council on the ‘Active Homes, Neath’ project. We have submitted plans to develop 16 sustainable homes that use solar PV and centralised batteries to generate, store and release their own energy. The low carbon concept delivers buildings at affordable cost, with low energy bills and a higher level of comfort for occupants. We welcome the latest announcement from the UK Government to allow further innovation in battery technology.”