A pioneering system that uses combined solar technology and thermal energy to provide year-round power is being installed in a British commercial property for the first time.
Called the Zero Carbon Solution, the system is being fitted to a newly-built office on the Foundry Business Park at Faversham, Kent. From the outside there will be no indication of the 5,900sq ft office’s specialist equipment— or of its carbon neutral credentials.
Built by Canterbury-based developer and business park owner Quinn Estates, when completed the standard metal-framed office block will become home to renewable energy specialist Newform Energy (NFE), a joint venture partner in Zero Carbon Solution (ZCS) with house-builder Caplin Homes.
Originally designed for the housing market, the technology was first tested in Caplin Homes’ Solar House in Great Glen, Leicestershire. Now on the market for £1.5m it is claimed to be the first new-build solar-powered home in the UK.
“We wanted to practice what we preach and using the technology in our own office building seemed like the ideal way to do that,” explained Keith Willett, managing director of both NFE and ZCS. “There is no reason why ordinary construction can’t become extremely energy efficient and we want this project to act as a demonstration.”
An array of solar photovoltaic thermal panels, housed on the building’s roof, will be used for heating and hot water, to power high-performing LED lighting and to run the building’s heat pump and integrated controller. A patented inter-seasonal heat store, the Earth Energy Bank, will also be used to collect any excess energy generated during the summer months, which will then be drawn upon in winter to heat the offices.
The Earth Energy Bank has just been installed on site and building work is due to be completed next month. “We are looking forward to moving into our new offices and having a working model to show to potential customers and the industry in general,” added Willet.
The irony of the solar powered office is that it is being unveiled just as the Government’s eco regulations are being wound down and at a time when other countries, including Germany, France and Spain, ramp up investment in solar energy to meet the combined challenges of climate change and increasingly expensive fossil fuels.
Although it is clearly the UK’s leading innovator in green property technology, Newform Energy is not the only company with commercial property ambitions. But it is, claims Dutch environmental scientist Piet Grossman, the way the majority of offices and factories will be built from 2025 onward. “By then the technology would have advanced, and the production costs reduced, to such an extent that businesses will demand carbon zero premises,” he says.
The biggest driving force toward green commercial premises is not the environment, but running costs. “As energy goes up over the next decades businesses will need to keep a sharp eye on finances,” adds Grossman. “Being able cut annual energy costs to almost nil will be a big advantage — and incentive.”
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