Buildings to become ‘power stations’ under renewable energy project

The launch of a new building improvement project aims to 'revolutionise' the UK's renewable energy industry by turning buildings into 'power stations' capable of generating, storing and releasing their own energy.

The project, known as SPECIFIC (Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Coatings) and led by Swansea University, will involve incorporating specially coated steel and glass into buildings, so that the “fabric of a building itself is able to generate, store and release electricity”.

It is estimated to deliver significant economic benefits, including up to 10,000 new jobs in the supply chain, anchoring advanced manufacturing in the UK and providing global export opportunities.

Backed by a number of partners, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Technology Strategy Board has provided £10m of funding, while a further £2m has come from the Welsh Government.

Business secretary, Vince Cable, and Wales first minister Carwyn Jones recently visited the new pilot manufacturing facility to start-up the sheet production line that will turn out functional, conductive steel and glass building products on a pilot scale.

Mr Cable said: “The Government’s £10m backing of the SPECIFIC project shows what can be achieved when world class university research comes together with the private sector.

“This centre will speed up the commercialisation of innovative industrial coatings, creating a whole new manufacturing sector and new business opportunities, not to mention long-term environmental benefits, including turning buildings into sources of power.

In addition to Swansea University the partnership involves leading university groups, including Imperial College, Bath, Bangor, Cardiff, Glyndwr and Sheffield, and multi-nationals such as Tata Steel, BASF and NSG Pilkington.

The project has been triggered by a £20m investment over five-years, led by Swansea University and based at the Baglan Bay IKC near Port Talbot, in South Wales.

Chief executive of SPECIFIC, Kevin Bygate, said: “What we are achieving at the Baglan Bay Innovation and Knowledge Centre is of global significance. It has the potential to create a range of renewable energy applications which will be available commercially within a few years.

“The funding secured to date and the unique collaboration between government, academia and industry has enabled us to make rapid progress within a relatively short timescale.”

Leigh Stringer

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