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.
The project was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
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.
The systems were installed in 250 social housing properties with the aim of:
· Making properties more affordable for tenants
· Reducing Together Housing’s carbon footprint
· Providing a sustainable return on investment
· Improving SAP ratings of existing properties
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.
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.
Together Housing also partnered with Octopus and Utilita Energy to trial Time-of-Use tariffs, this allows tenants to make further energy savings by taking advantage of off-peak energy prices and battery storage.
Following the success of the project, Together are rolling the project out to a further 500 properties. Together are also trialling the use of smart thermostats in all properties and up to 20 air source heat pumps. Tenants will be supported throughout all processes and will be directly engaged in the results.