With almost a quarter of the population in Wales technically living in fuel poverty, a small solar company has developed a way of building the greenest houses in the country. The location is Glanrhyd in the county of Pembrokeshire and the project comprises of six houses with eco-friendliness right at their core.
While the average home in the UK is spending up to £1,500 on their gas and electricity, the Glanrhyd homes promise utility bills at just £200. The homes will be made available to those on the council’s waiting list and their success could herald further, similar projects in the near future across the UK.
The Tŷ Solar project that started things off had two initial aims when the startup company Western Solar first began to imagine a new, greener future. The first was how they could build a low-cost house that was fit for purpose. The second was how they could lower the costs of living in that house with respect to the utilities they used.
The results far exceeded their expectations. The houses they have built are about half the cost of a normal brick structure – the buildings in Glanrhyd are made from good old fashioned wood. They are also extremely efficient, not only using less power but significantly lowering bills because of the inclusion of technologies such as solar PV.
These houses use 12% of the energy that normal properties do. Any excess power produced by the solar array can also be sold to the grid but there is also real potential for the homes to be energy independent if the latest new storage technology takes off.
In addition to being more energy efficient, the builders used local materials in the construction of the homes which greatly reduces the carbon footprint. Many of the other items such as the paper insulation is from recycled products and all the materials are non-toxic and have no adverse effect on the surrounding environment.
It wasn’t an easy path to success for this Welsh startup company – almost half of their budget went into the early stages of research and there were plenty of mistakes along the way until they came to the right solutions. This has the benefit, now that the Glanrhyd project is finished, of the company being in a position to mass produce the houses and replicate the village in other parts of the country. Over the next 3 years, Western Solar is looking to build some 50 homes across the region that will benefit residents on low incomes and provide them with a low-cost alternative to housing.
It’s not just the buildings that are giving many people much pause for thought. The company is looking to manualise the process of building, which includes employing and training locals to create these homes without using the large amount of heavy machinery often associated with construction companies.
The village at Glanrhyd will hopefully demonstrate to potential buyers and investors that this is a viable option for the future and could be replicated anywhere in the UK.
Could it solve the housing crisis?
According to Lesley Griffiths from the Department of Rural and Environmental Affairs:
“This scheme ticks so many boxes. We need more houses, we need more energy efficiency, we want to help people with fuel poverty. It’s been really good to hear how they have sourced local products. It’s great they’re using local people to build the houses.”
If we are looking to build homes that people can not only afford but afford to live in, this project may signal the way for future generations of builders.
Find out more about the initial Tŷ Solar project below: