Swansea University has introduced an active classroom that generates, stores and releases its own solar energy.
Developed at the university’s SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, the classroom’s electricity is generated by a steel roof with integrated solar cells. It is connected to two Aquion Energy saltwater batteries, which are being used in the UK for the first time and are capable of storing enough energy to power the building for two days.
In addition to being long-lasting, the batteries are also non-flammable, non-hazardous, non-explosive, and contain no heavy metals or toxic chemicals.
The classroom also uses Tata Steel’s perforated steel cladding for generation of solar heat energy, which can be stored in a water-based system, and an electrically-heated floor coating that has been developed by SPECIFIC researchers.
The classroom’s control system combines technical performance data from each component with occupancy and seasonal weather variations to manage the building’s energy use and provide a comfortable environment for students.
Jo Morgan, an architect on the project, said: “While each product is in itself important, the real innovation is in the way they work together to generate, store and release energy.
“For us this project wasn’t just about showing that it works technically, it was also about working closely with our construction industry partners on a real project, developing skills and helping to bring low carbon buildings like this closer to market.”
The classroom provides teaching space and a laboratory for the university’s students, as well as a building-scale development facility for SPECIFIC and its industry partners.
SPECIFIC is led by Swansea University and working with more than 50 partners from academia, industry and government to develop buildings as power stations. Its strategic partners are Tata Steel and Cardiff University among others, and it is part-funded by Innovate UK, EPSRC, and the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh government.