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Solar Panels to be Installed in 250 Affordable Homes by Places For People

Going green and installing energy efficient renewable technologies – like solar panels – should no longer be the preserve of the middle class, or for politicians to point score, the UK’s largest housing and regeneration group said today.

Places for People, which is responsible for around 60,000 properties across the UK, warned the government that the looming threat posed by climate change could only be tackled if greater financial incentives were made available to housing groups and people on low incomes.

The call comes as the company announces a unique tie-in with leading solar panel manufacturer Viridian Solar, placing an order for up to 250 low-cost solar panels to be installed in affordable homes across the UK next year. It is thought to be the single biggest commitment to installing solar panels by a UK housing group. The installation of the first 50 solar panels will take place in Summer 2007 at McCutcheon Court – a flagship regeneration scheme in Walker Riverside, Newcastle.

Places for People’s Group Director and former Easyjet marketing director Tony Anderson said:
“If we are serious about tackling the threats posed by climate change then the government must offer greater incentives for housing groups and people on low incomes wanting to go green and install renewable technologies in their own homes, this has to be about more than assuaging middle class guilt.”

“The average home is responsible for emitting more than a quarter of all carbon emissions, yet addressing the issue still remains the preserve of those who can afford sky-high installation costs, which can be as much as £3,000.”

“The solar panels we will be installing will help us to achieve higher renewable energy targets on our buildings and help reduce residents’ energy bills, providing both environmental and social benefits. Our aim is to mainstream the use of renewable technologies and develop new homes that are not only energy efficient and have a limited effect on the environment, but which are also appealing to the people who live in them.”

In the past year Places for People has designed and constructed hundreds of homes that are energy efficient and feature a range of renewable technologies such as solar and geothermal power.

In the summer it launched a range of pilot projects testing renewable technologies in affordable new build and existing developments including solar panels at Sheffield in Norfolk Park; ground source heat pumps in Cambridge and Electrisave meters at Broughton Atterbury which tell people how much energy they are using in pence and pounds and how much CO2 they are emitting.

By mainstreaming the technology into its building programme it is expected that the solar panel units will cost below £1,000 per household – around a quarter the cost of traditional solar panel systems – making them far more affordable for new housing developments and existing homes. The solar panels provide up to 60% of the annual hot water demand for the homes to which they are fitted.

Stuart Elmes, Chief Executive of Viridian Solar that manufactures the units said that the order would help mainstream the use of renewable technologies.

“After three years of development in partnership with forward-looking organisations such as Places for People, Viridian Solar has launched a solar panel that addresses the needs of the construction industry, namely cost effectiveness, looks and ease of installation. This partnership with Places for People, with a guaranteed annual volume is a vote of confidence, and will help encourage other developers to move from tentative pilot studies towards wide deployment of pragmatic and cost-effective renewable energy technologies.”

Places for People is also responsible for Broughton Atterbury, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, which is one of the largest schemes in the UK to receive the industry’s gold standard on environmental sustainability.

EcoHome features at Broughton Square include water butts to collect rainwater from properties for use on gardens, the use of timber from sustainable sources, provision of onsite recycling facilities and a Sustainable Urban Drainage System which helps reduce the amount of pollutants being washed into rivers. All 229 homes have very high energy efficiency ratings reducing CO2 emissions.

It is also working with residents at Broughton to encourage them to think about the amount of energy they may be wasting. In a pilot project it has installed Electrisave meters in people’s homes – something the government wants to see in every person’s home in the future. This is a simple device which tells you how much electricity you are using and how much it is costs in pence per hour. It also shows how much carbon your home is emitting. The project has helped reduce customers’ fuel bills by 15 per cent and has changed the way people think about and use their electricity. The company plans to extend the Electrisave pilot in early 2007.

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