They’ve been built in Pembrokeshire by Western Solar which is behind Wales’ first solar farm. I want Pentre Solar to be the first of many in Wales and across the UK.
However, housing associations and big institutions will have to dare to be brave!
This winter, thousands of households in Wales will be thinking twice about turning on their heating – forced by high energy costs to live in homes that are far too cold. Across the UK, fuel poverty costs the NHS an estimated £5bn in health related problems.
In 2011 we opened our first solar farm and 12 months later had produced 1.2 GW of clean energy without much in the way of maintenance costs. We decided to invest our income on constructing a home which was cheap and sustainable to build, as well as uncompromising on energy efficiency.
Our research resulted in Ty Solar, a 100 sqm 3-bed prototype. It was clad in larch, covered in solar panels on a mono-pitched roof and generated 6000KwH of energy over the year. The solar gain from daylight accounted for 80% of the space heating requirements and its 275mm insulated walls with treble glazed windows retained heat several hours after darkness.
Despite being impressed, visitors thought it too innovative – too risky – and yet all over Northern Europe similar homes are the norm.
We wanted to prove that our ideas are viable on a bigger scale and acquired the site of a disused garage to build six homes based on our prototype. The four 2-bed and two 3-bed homes have superfast broadband, 11″ of insulation and use 12% of the energy of a traditional home. They are no more expensive to construct than a traditionally built property.
The homes are for rent at below market rate, making them affordable for tenants, who will approximately save more than a £1,000 a year on their normal energy bills.
The local economy has also benefited with the creation of new skills and jobs while around 60p in every £1 spent, has been retained in the area.
We dared to challenge the norm, to be innovative and to take a chance. Ty Solar and Pentre Solar prove we were right and that you can build affordable, energy efficient homes.
We are now looking to others to follow in our footsteps – to be brave and take a step to helping more Welsh families escape the misery and pain of fuel poverty.
Dr Glen Peters is one of the main speakers at Community Housing Cymru’s Rural Housing Conference on 26 January.