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Energy-Positive Buildings Generate More Energy Than They Consume

The UK's first energy-positive classroom, designed with research expertise from Swansea University, generated more than one and a half times the energy it consumed.

The UK's first energy-positive classroom, designed by Swansea University, generated more than one and a half times the energy it consumed, according to data from its first year of operation.

The findings were announced as the researchers launched the next phase of their research, gathering data and evidence on an office building, constructed using similar methods.

Buildings currently account for around 40% of UK energy consumption. This new building, known as the Active Office, points the way to a new generation of low-carbon offices which produce their own supply of clean energy.

It was designed by SPECIFIC, a UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre led by Swansea University.

"SPECIFIC's research focuses on developing solar technologies and the processing techniques that take them from the lab to full-scale buildings," explained Professor Dave Worsley, Research Director for SPECIFIC and Swansea University College of Engineering. "With our building demonstration programme we are testing and proving the 'buildings as power stations' concept in real buildings, which are used every day. The data obtained from these buildings is then fed back into our fundamental research into solar energy technologies and used to accelerate and steer their development.'" Worsley said.

The Active Office combines a range of innovative technologies that will enable it to generate, store and release solar energy in one integrated system, including:

  • A curved roof with integrated solar cells
  • A Photovoltaic Thermal system on the south facing wall capable of generating both heat and electricity from the sun
  • Lithium-ion batteries to store the electricity generated and a 2,000 liter water tank to store solar heat

The 'buildings as power stations' concept has already been shown to work. Right next to the Active Office is the Active Classroom, the UK's first energy-positive classroom. Also built by SPECIFIC, the Active Classroom generated more than one and half times the energy it consumed in its first year of operation.

Energy positive buildings could benefit the UK significantly. A 2017 analysis showed that it would mean:

  • Lower energy costs for the consumer
  • Less need for peak central power generating capacity and associated reduction in stress on the National Grid, leading to improved energy security
  • Reduced carbon emissions

"Offices are enormous consumers of energy, so turning them energy-positive has the potential to slash fuel bills and dramatically reduce their carbon emissions," said Kevin Bygate, chief operating officer of SPECIFIC.

(Source: Swansea University)