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EP_19.jpg March/April 2005
Cover Story
Interview
Major Project
Solarcentury
Speedy Hire
Besix
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BRIGHT FUTURES
solarcentury has helped more businesses, homes and local authorities go solar than anyone else in the UK.

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Headquartered in London, solarcentury is the UK’s leading solar photovoltaic (PV) company. Solar PV has the ability to generate electricity from light, whatever the weather. The company has the largest team of solar engineers in the country and is independent from the fossil fuel industry. What’s more, as the sole UK distributor for the world’s leading solar electric technology, there is quite simply no one like it in Britain.

Photovoltaic technology generates electricity from light. PV cells are semiconductors which release electrons when they are exposed to light. Wires can then be attached to the cells to carry the electricity away for use close by. Of course, the greater the intensity of light, the greater the flow of electricity. Silicon is the most common material used in semiconductors and is the main material in over 98 per cent of all solar PV cells made today.

Jeremy Leggett, solarcentury’s managing director, once described by Time Magazine as ‘one of the key players in putting climate issues on the world agenda’, told Construction Today Europe more about solar PV. “Solar PV generated power could provide 10,000 times more electricity than the world currently uses. Now would you necessarily want to do that? Well no, because there is a whole family of renewable energy technologies, but it does highlight the potential of such equipment.

“I believe solar equipment works best when it is twinned with other technologies, particularly in terms of energy efficiency, because efficiency means a little electricity can go a long way in lighting and driving appliances, with less emission of greenhouse gases. In the winter you can generate electricity by burning gas because the PV has lower output. Increased light in the summer months means there is more energy produced by the PV when you don’t need the gas for heating so much anyway – it is a sister relationship.”

Today’s housing providers, and the construction industry in general, increasingly need to think about sustainability. Once installed, a solar PV system provides free, and most importantly inflation-proof, clean electricity for 30 years and more. “We haven’t yet convinced housing providers to move towards sustainability, but we are working on it. You have to appreciate this is an industry with huge potential. Historically, it has developed slowly but it is my firm belief that there is soon going to be a tipping point where the pressures of global warming and dynamics in society will make this an explosive market.”

Jeremy has a point - there is evidence to suggest that once a solar PV system is installed people will become more aware of energy usage and increasingly energy efficient. As a matter of fact, by installing a solar PV tiled roof, it is possible to prevent over 34 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions during the lifetime of the roof.

Solarcentury has already worked with numerous social housing partners. Projects with Maidenhead and District Housing Association (MDHA) and South Oxfordshire Housing Association have already been completed. It also has upcoming projects with Queens Cross Housing Association in Glasgow, Ashley Vale Self Build in Bristol, Guildford Housing Association and Perthshire Housing Association.

The company’s aim is to revolutionise the solar market. “We are the best in the business for a reason – we help create a cleaner world and a sustainable future,” explains Jeremy. Indeed, the sun bathes the earth in an incredible amount of energy and solarcentury is now in a position to effectively harness the power of the sun. “We envisage PV on the roof of every building, supplying clean power and achieving the cuts in emissions that are urgently needed.

“The reason why we don’t use as much solar energy as we should is because too many UK government officials are not capable of thinking outside the box. You don’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking with which you created them. Hardnosed investors are waking up to the reality of global warming and the looming energy crisis, so it is frustrating that some members of Whitehall have not done the same.

“The British market needs to be stimulated in the same way as the German, Japanese and Californian markets because they are the engines of growth. If the government is serious about taking a leading role then now is the time,” says Jeremy.

Solarcentury hopes to convince a seemingly reluctant industry that solar power is the answer to our energy needs. By exhibiting at shows like Interbuild, the company hopes to persuade housing providers, and other sections of the construction industry, that solar PV and heating systems can solve their energy requirements. Typically using power generated by burning fossil fuels, buildings in the UK contribute a massive 50 per cent to UK CO2 emissions, directly and indirectly. The monthly costs associated with these methods are often more than the cost of a solar mortgage, which will pay for a quality solar solution.  CT-E

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