Scots university pioneer celebrates 20th anniversary of Britain’s first solar power roof

Prof. Sue Roaf, Heriot Watt University,
Prof. Sue Roaf, Heriot Watt University,

A Heriot Watt University academic next week (7 July) celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first solar roof in Britain and the milestone of over one million people now living in homes with solar panels.

In July 1995 Sue Roaf installed the first integrated solar roof on her own home despite facing opposition from the energy industry at the time and being told by the Government that it would never work “because there is not enough sunshine in Britain”.

Two decades on, the solar panels are still generating electricity and hot water and generate enough heat and electricity to ensure that this six bedroom home has one of the lowest carbon footprints for any building in Britain.

The UK’s first domestic photovoltaic (PV) system required £28,000, new Local Planning and Building Regulations Guidance on PV roofs and partnership with Southern Electric to pioneer the first grid-connection agreement developed by an energy company in Britain.

Today residents wanting to reap the benefits of solar power have a wide range of options at a fifth of the original costs.

The ground-breaking solar roof in Oxford also helped spark the solar revolution in the UK and 20 years later over 1,000,000 people across the country are living in houses with solar panels on them. UK homeowners have invested their own money into approximately 1.7 GW of roof top solar systems over the last 20 years, or around a fifth of the UK’s total nuclear power station capacity. Solar energy is the People’s Power of choice: Safe, Clean and increasingly affordable for all. 

The celebration, sponsored by OPUS Energy, will be held in the garden of the Oxford Ecohouse and will also pay tribute to Oxfordshire’s continuing role as a pioneering solar region within Britain, with ground-breaking projects on local schools, village halls and businesses as well as community energy schemes, solar co-operatives and local energy companies who will be joining the celebrations on the 7th July.

Solar pioneer Prof. Sue Roaf said: “A lot of people told me it would never work here – but look at Britain now – nearly a million solar roofs out of 25 million homes, an annual doubling of installed solar capacity and even the politicians now recognise that the best way to take people out of fuel poverty is to put the means of generating energy on their own roofs.

“I am very proud that this house has been at the heart of the solar revolution over the last 20 years it is great to be able to celebrate our communal achievement with this 21st century technology, together”.

Prof. Roaf’s house uses only 13.2 kWhm2 of gas and electricity and producing only 4 kg CO2 m2 each year, a fraction of the impacts of most modern buildings.

Last year, the global photovoltaic (PV) modules market was valued at $32.6 US billion in 2013 and $34.6 billion.

The UK’s cumulative installed solar photovoltaic capacity grew from 2.8GW to nearly 5GW in 2014 alone making the UK only the sixth country to have more than 5GW capacity. Germany remains the undisputed leader with more than 36GW. China, Japan, Italy and the US each have more than 10GW installed.

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