Can Houses Become Powerhouses?

With the data in from the UK’s first energy-positive classroom, a team led by Swansea University have built the nation’s first energy-positive office.

The building utilises solar energy to produce more power than it consumes.

The team responsible, called SPECIFIC, used technology developed by the university to design the game-changing buildings. Their designs, they claim, utilise only commercially available materials and established supply chains.

This means that these energy-positive structures are set to be tomorrow’s office buildings and classrooms. After all, they can be built with today’s technology.

Interestingly, this opens the door for the same technology to be used to create solar-powered, energy-positive homes in the very near future.

Energy-Positive Homes

An energy-positive home, or any energy-positive building, is one that produces more energy than it uses.

This is achieved through various systems, utilising solar energy production and innovative storage solutions.

For SPECIFIC’s groundbreaking energy-positive office, this is achieved in the following ways:

  • Solar Panels: The curved roof of the building holds integrated photovoltaic panels, feeding the power system with solar energy.
  • Photovoltaic Thermal System: Installed on the south facing wall, this system generates both heat and electricity from solar energy.
  • Dual Energy Storage: Lithium-ion batteries handle the electricity storage, while a 2,000 litre water tank stores heat.

Moving forward, these designs will almost certainly be applied to residential housing, meaning that there may be a generation of energy-positive homes on the horizon.

Utilising Solar Energy To Beat Energy Shortages

In fact, the government has shown enthusiasm for these kinds of projects as the UK tries to reform its energy sector in the face of rising energy costs for the consumer.

The arrival of energy-positive homes on to the market promises to herald much lower household bills. We would also benefit from greater energy security as a nation, as the load on the National Grid is drastically decreased.

Further, any energy-positive home would be insulated from any energy shortages or failures within the National Grid, and could even feed energy to the grid when supply is low or demand is high.

Using the already proven technology coming out of Swansea, energy-positive homes would rely on existing supply chains and existing technologies. They would also be quick to build and mostly pre-fabricated, which offers great economy for companies willing to enter the market.

And because the power generated is purely solar energy, captured via photovoltaic panels and Virtu PVT tubes, new energy-positive builds will also benefit from being carbon neutral in terms of energy production.

With buildings accounting for around 40% of UK annual energy use, reducing the cost of powering those homes both in monetary terms and in terms of emissions is of paramount importance.

And this proof of concept and proof of product coming from SPECIFIC and Swansea University, that number could plummet amid a generation of new-build, energy-positive homes.

As the UK moves away from fossil fuels and non-renewable power sources, the future seems more and more likely to be powered primarily by solar energy. All we are waiting for now is for the market to catch up with the latest technology.

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