Technical innovation creates low carbon home using fuel cell power and heating
In an innovative deployment of new technology, housebuilder Crest Nicholson has installed the first energy efficient fuel cell system ever to be used in a new build home in the UK. The move is in line with the Group’s continued commitment to driving innovation in the delivery of low carbon homes, making use of new technologies and partnerships that will efficiently harness locally generated electricity for domestic use.
The BlueGen gas-to-electricity generator has been supplied by Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited, a leading provider of high efficiency and low emission electricity generation products for homes and other buildings. The unit is installed in a four bedroom family home at Crest Nicholson’s Noble Park development on the outskirts of Epsom, Surrey, and is the UK’s first ever installation of a microgeneration certificate scheme (MCS) accredited micro power and heat fuel cell in a new build home, providing power, heating and hot water.
Crest Nicholson is delivering five of the homes at Noble Park as part of the “AIMC4” consortium, which was created to research and build mass-market carbon efficient homes which highly optimise the fabric of the building. Supported by funding from the Government-backed Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the homes have been designed for high insulation and energy efficiency and low heat losses, making them among the first of their kind to be delivered in the UK.
The BlueGen is providing all the heat needed for the home – there is no separate boiler or other heating device needed. The BlueGen product is the only fuel cell product eligible for the UK Feed-In Tariff (FIT), which provides a payment to BlueGen customers for power generated on-site and exported back to the power grid. As an added bonus, occupants can take full advantage of the electricity generated overnight thanks to the installation of a car charging cable to the home, further reinforcing the commitment to creating a low-carbon lifestyle.
BlueGen units use ceramic fuel cells to turn natural gas into electricity – as well as heat for hot water – for homes, schools, offices and small commercial buildings. Each BlueGen unit can save up to four tonnes of carbon per year in low carbon homes. The peak electrical efficiency of BlueGen is up to 60 percent, far higher than any other small scale generating technology in the world. With the added benefit of heat, total efficiency is up to 85 percent and may be even higher in such low energy homes.
The Crest Nicholson low carbon home demonstrates how new houses can meet the energy efficiency levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 by fabric first solutions, cutting carbon emissions by 44 percent from 2006 Part L Building Regulations levels. In 2016 this requirement for all homes sent to planning increases to “zero carbon”, meaning the building fabric of the home and onsite power and heat generation must cut emissions by at least 70 percent from 2006 levels, equivalent to zero net carbon emissions from regulated energy, which is that used for heating, hot water, lighting and building (services) consumption, over the course of a year. Stephen Stone, Chief Executive, Crest Nicholson, said:
“This is a real first for the UK in terms of introducing fuel cell technology into new homes and will bring a number of tangible consumer benefits.
“The technology works best in energy efficient homes that require very low levels of heating, and this is exactly the case with the AIMC4 homes at Epsom. Not only that, but as part of this pioneering project we will also be carrying out an intensive programme of post-occupancy evaluation, which will provide solid data to help us understand how our customers react to the benefits of fuel cell technology.
“It is a real priority for us to continue to drive innovation in the delivery of sustainable communities, and we hope that the technology we have installed at Epsom will, through collaboration, lead to volume supply that will ultimately bring down costs and provide an exciting approach to delivering the Government’s 2016 zero carbon timeline ambitions.”
Brendan Dow, Managing Director, Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited, added:
“BlueGen is an advanced technology that is available today. With its high levels of energy efficiency BlueGen provides a clear pathway towards the UK Government’s 2016 residential sector targets for all new build houses to be zero carbon. Demonstrating that BlueGen can provide all the heating for a new home opens up a large market for us, and means BlueGen is not restricted to the market for replacement boilers.
“Crest Nicholson is an exciting partner for Ceramic Fuel Cells and we look forward to sharing a close working relationship as we explore the potential for installing additional BlueGen units at other Crest Nicholson new home developments.”