Together Housing Group has piloted the large-scale use of solar photovoltaic panels with battery storage technology in retrofit properties. It is the first project of its kind in the UK of this size. It has been designed to collect data to develop a viable investment model that can implement renewable power into existing social housing stock at a significant scale.
This project has been designed as a demonstrator for the social housing sector. Social housing providers need the confidence of a proven investment and delivery model to be able to secure the resources necessary to deliver a net-zero strategy.
Together have provided regular updates to tenants on their use of renewable energy and provided advice on how to improve their usage in future. Tenants are already engaged with monitoring their energy use.
A year’s worth of data from the project showed a conservative average saving of 625kg CO2e per property per year. To put this into context, this is about the same weight as a classic Mini. A mature hardwood would take 28 years to absorb this much carbon. Together have 250 of these installations and they will be in place for a minimum of 20-25 years.
Together Housing has ambitions to create solar capacity of up to 50MW across up to 17,000 of its properties. To do so would save an estimated 16,900 metric tonnes of carbon per year – a major impact on the organisation’s carbon footprint.
The operating model will be flexible enough to allow the adoption of new technologies and new markets for revenue as they occur. It also is adaptable to self-financing or fully funded solutions.
The project has promoted the involvement of all interested parties to share in the learning experience and the development of the investment and operating model. Together believe it is the largest project of its type that is operating openly in this way.
The technology is manufactured by Prime Hybrid Energy. The project specification used the latest, best performing technologies that dynamically meet power demand in the property to maximise use of solar energy. In turn, benefitting the environment, tenants and landlord. They combine durability and high performance with safety and the ability to recycle.
Ultimately, the project is designed to put residents first and engage all generations in a renewable future. The project includes a range of demographic groups, house types and lifestyles, enabling Together to use the data to have the highest social impact. Property types include bungalows, two and three-bedroom terraces and semi-detached houses. Solar panel arrays have also been used on East/West orientations. Occupants ranged from single, elderly and retired to larger families incorporating the housebound to those with traditional working patterns.
The project was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Together Housing worked with electricity suppliers before and throughout the project gaining contact with partners as the project progressed. Given that this was the first project of its type at this scale it attracted partners by virtue of being a market mover in the space.
Every tenant received an induction detailing how best to use the solar energy. In addition, leaflets were provided with information about their systems, how best to use them and contact information to find out more.
There were a number of challenges that were overcome related to; pre-installation surveys, team working, site inspections, the importance of the Tenant Liaison Officer, investment in installer training, scaffolding logistics, contractor relationships, ensuring batteries had sufficient charge prior to installation, wind loading best practice, post installation checks and choice of appropriate circuit protection.
The removal of the Feed-In-Tariff (FiT) has affected the solar industry. However, this project shows that large scale solar and battery installation achieves a return on investment through billing tenants, getting maximum value for exported energy and through grid balancing services.
A good first point of call when looking to do something similar is to read the final report on the project by Together Housing. If you want to speak to somebody about the pilot project then please get in touch with the Net Zero team at Together Housing or Robin Jones at the North West Net Zero Hub.
Improving SAP ratings of existing properties (min uplift of 10 points)
% of electricity consumed (40%)
CO2e saved at each property (625kg CO2e)
Internal rate of return over 24 years (4.5%)