Construction is underway on the first major housing development in the UK to use the futuristic “Active Buildings” solar power concept.
The 16 homes, on the site of a former care home off Wenham Place in Neath, have been designed to maximise solar gain and will use a combination of innovative technologies to allow the homes to generate, store and release their own energy.
The Active Homes Neath project is a partnership between Neath Port Talbot Borough Council, housing organisation Pobl Group and Swansea University’s SPECIFIC Innovation & Knowledge Centre based at the Baglan Energy Park.
The scheme – comprising eight apartments and eight houses – is also designed as a pathfinder project for a much bigger “Homes as Power Stations” regional programme of activity that’s due to be part funded subject to business case approval by the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal.
The Homes as Power Stations project will enable homes and other buildings to generate, store and release their own energy, thanks to an extensive planned programme of new-build, hi-tech homes along with retrofitting works that can make conventional homes self-powering.
The ‘Active Buildings’ concept, developed by SPECIFIC, includes integrated photovoltaic panels on the roofs and a solar heat collector on south-facing walls for water heating. Batteries will store excess energy for subsequent use, while waste heat will be captured and recycled within the home’s ventilation system.
Councillor Rob Jones, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said: ”The construction of these self-powering homes is fantastic for this region as it puts us at the cutting edge of new green energy technologies and uses local skills, local workers and is linked to locally based businesses like Tata Steel.
“It is also aimed at kick-starting the wider Homes as Power Stations project which could make the Swansea Bay region a key player in developing self-powering homes, offices and other buildings.”
The development is being funded by the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme and Social Housing Grant as well as private finance.
Once completed, the performance of the Active Homes in Neath will be monitored by the Department of Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy (BEIS) monitoring programme.
Elfed Roberts, Head of Development (West) at Pobl explained how the technologies could benefit the lives of the residents: “As a low carbon development Active Homes Neath will explore how reduced energy consumption can have a positive impact on consumers’ health and wellbeing; through the decrease in numbers of people experiencing fuel poverty, for example.”
Kevin Bygate, CEO of SPECIFIC added “Homes like these, if built in large numbers, could play a significant part in combatting Britain’s predicted energy crisis by both reducing household energy bills and taking the pressure off the energy system.”
The new homes in Neath are being built by South Wales-based construction company TRJ.