'Buildings as power stations' project gets £26m extra funding
Welsh finance minister Jane Hutt has announced a £26m investment to drive forward the solar energy industry.
The investment is intended to help progress the commercialisation of technologies to transform ‘buildings into power stations’ by enabling them to generate, store and release their own solar energy.
The funding is made up of £15m of EU funds, £4m from the Engineering & Physical Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK, and £7m investment from Swansea and Cardiff Universities, coupled with investment from industry partners. It will support a new phase of research and commercialisation of technology being developed at the Port Talbot-based Specific Innovation & Knowledge Centre. Specific is a research-led and industry inspired innovation centre delivered by Swansea University with Tata Steel, BASF, NSG Pilkington and Cardiff University, and brings together more than 50 partners from academia and industry.
The five-year initiative will support Specific’s ambitions for the commercialisation of research within the renewable energy sector through demonstration of integrated technologies in buildings across residential and commercial sectors.
Hutt said: “EU investments such as these are vital in providing opportunities for academic and industrial collaborations in high-growth sectors such as energy, where Wales has great potential to deliver. This initiative embodies the Welsh Government’s goals, not only for a low-carbon economy, but also for greater collaboration between governments, universities and businesses to commercialise ground-breaking research, and in turn, drive high quality, sustainable jobs and growth across Wales.”
Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of EPSRC, added: “One of the UK’s challenges is to provide a resilient, sustainable and secure energy supply. The Specific Innovation & Knowledge Centre bridges the gap between great science and research in the lab and teams it with industrial development and commercialisation for the benefit of the UK economy.”
Kevin Bygate, CEO of Specific, said: “By combining affordable solar generation, storage and release technologies into an integrated system we’re offering a realistic low-risk, low-cost solution to our energy challenges. At scale, the ‘buildings as power stations’ concept could deliver a significant reduction in gas heating, a reduction in the stress on the electrical grid at peak times, and a cheap, renewable source of energy for building owners and occupiers.”
Dr Ruth McKernan, chief executive of Innovate UK added: “Specific’s work in demonstrating the concept of buildings as power stations over the last five years is excellent. Innovate UK looks forward to seeing their partners in the construction industry deliver on the planned scale-up of demonstrators over the next five years. This will accelerate the commercialisation of their technologies in Wales and in the rest of the UK.”
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This article was published on 2 Mar 2016 (last updated on 2 Mar 2016).