India's Tata Group working to make buildings energy self-sufficient

09:30, June 03, 2011      

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The ecological dream of transforming buildings from energy consumers into energy producers by integrating heating, energy and ventilation systems into their facades is getting closer to reality thanks to the London-based European arm of India's Tata Steel Group, now the second largest steel producer on the continent.

Based at the Tata Steel plant at Shotton, North Wales, a new center seeks to test and monitor innovative heating, energy and ventilation systems that are built into walls and roofs in such a way that the facades of buildings can generate energy to meet the needs of the occupant.

The Sustainable Building Envelope Centre, which cost 6.5 million pounds to set up, is the result of collaboration between Tata Steel, the Welsh Assembly government and the Low Carbon Research Institute.

The center was designed by the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University in partnership with Tata Steel with the aim of being a showcase for what are described as "ultimate low-carbon, low-energy sustainable construction technologies" as well as a test center for such developments.
The Sustainable Building Envelope Centre building, with distinctive bright green solar-collector steel blocks covering part of its exterior, incorporates these and other prototype renewable energy systems that will be tested and monitored by the center's 18-member team of researchers and technologists as part of their initial work program.

Tata Steel Europe, which has taken over the steelmaking operations of Corus, believes there is a big future for steel products used in construction to incorporate photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies as a means of generating energy and boosting the use of renewable energies.

Phil Jones, chairman of the Low Carbon Research Institute and head of the Welsh School of Architecture, said the work at Shotton was "at the leading edge of sustainable building technology development and is targeting solutions that will make a significant impact on the modern built environment."

He continued: "(The center) aims to develop practical, economic and aesthetically pleasing solutions that will work equally well in new-build and retrofit situations. This last point is critical as the stretching CO2 and energy reduction targets will not be met unless cost-effective ways can be found to upgrade the existing building stock."

Shotton is already the home of a multi-million pound photovoltaic project being carried out jointly by Tata Steel and Dyesol Limited, a global solar technology company, at what is known as the PV Accelerator Centre. There, the number of people working on photovoltaic development is being increased from 30 to 50 after a recent decision to expand the work.

A spokesman said: "The 11-million-pound project, whose initial development phase is due to be completed in June 2011, set out to develop the world's first continuously manufactured dye-sensitized photovoltaic product on steel for building applications."

For Tata, Peter Strikwerda said: "This project forms a key part of the Tata Steel strategy to develop a new range of functional coated-steel products based on renewable energy for use on the roofs and walls of buildings."

The project has met the objectives originally set for this phase to determine the photovoltaic cell architecture on steel, the roof component designs, the manufacturing processes and the raw materials requirements.

"This expansion takes the project from its laboratory and pilot-line phase into a pre-industrialization phase. We will significantly accelerate technical progress with the objective of establishing a product, process and supply chain that can be successfully commercialized,” added Peter Strikwerda.

The dye solar cell technology now being perfected at Shotton can best be described as artificial photosynthesis using an electrolyte, a layer of titania — a pigment used in paint and tooth paste — and ruthenium dye deposited on glass, metal or polymer substrates.

Light striking the dye excites electrons that are absorbed by the titania to become an electric current many times stronger than that found in natural photosynthesis in plants. Dye solar cell technology is said to work well in all light conditions.

Tata is also involved in another project called SPECIFIC, which is an acronym for the Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings set up at Baglan, South Wales, to study other new coatings for steel and glass capable of generating and storing energy.

There, the object of the five-year program that costs 20 million pounds is to produce such coatings on a large scale and at very low cost. Results of this work will be fed into the Sustainable Building Envelope Centre's research.

Source: British Embassy in China
 
 
     
 
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(Editor:张心意)

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