Green Energy: This Lake District holiday home is a Tesla experiment
Could this system be the future of ecoliving
Source: The Times
Deep in the mountains of the Lake District lies the future of British housing. Aquila, as the lakeside home is called, blends into its rural surroundings well enough, thanks to solid stone walls. Water leaks down the surrounding hillsides and snow-dusted peaks catch the light, as do the solar panels on the house’s flat roof, which are hidden from view on the approach road. These were added by the electric car giant Tesla, along with a host of ingenious gadgets that make this one of the most eco-friendly homes in the world. “We’re all visitors to these parts during winter,” a cheerful local bartender tells me. “This is Mother Nature’s home.”
Mercifully, Aquila is built into the hillside safely above the swollen lake. Except it’s not a lake. Haweswater is actually a reservoir, created nearly a century ago by Manchester Corporation to supply water to the industrial northwest. This contemporary three-bedroom house began life as a Water Board building that was used to store industrial equipment. The entrepreneur Stephen O’Sullivan bought it as an abandoned shell in 2014.
“The opportunity to acquire such an intriguing structure in beautiful wilderness comes along once in a lifetime,” O’Sullivan says. “Given the strong bones of the building, I was keen to maintain its essential character.” The renovation lent it a New York loft-style aesthetic, with exposed steam beams, bulkhead lighting and inviting vintage furniture. Aquila can now be rented via the short-stay website Unique Homestays, with prices starting at £1,495 a week for up to six guests.
Sheltering from horizontal hail, I can barely hear the hum of the technology that is keeping me warm as I look out over the choppy, slate-grey water. In addition to the solar panels, Tesla has installed one of its Powerwall home battery systems and a charging point for electric cars. The unusual setup seeks to showcase the low-emission lifestyle so the eco-curious can try before they buy.
“It sips electricity,” O’Sullivan says. “The building has been insulated to modern standards and has underfloor heating powered by an air-source heat pump. With the Powerwall and the solar system now fitted, I expect it to run entirely on solar power throughout the summer. Even in winter, we should have periods when the property runs only on solar.”
O-grid Aquila may seem, but it’s only a short drive from Askham Hall, a hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Tesla charging points are going in there, too, as the local community increasingly embraces sustainable living. Gliding past mossy trees in a fast, eerily quiet electric car is like travelling by magic carpet.
Tesla’s broader aim is to help the owners of electric vehicles harness solar energy and draw power from the grid at times when it is plentiful, storing it for when need arises. It’s not unlike the thinking that created the reservoir — except it’s more of a challenge because of the lack of sunlight. If Tesla can make solar power work here, then it can work anywhere.
The Powerwall battery exploits the same technology as those the company has honed for its cars. It is guaranteed to be working at more than 80% of its stated capacity after 10 years, and the latest model oers 13.5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of storage, amply covering the daily energy needs of an average household. With a Backup Gateway that maintains supply during power cuts, the Powerwall unit is priced at £7,800.00, including installation.
The battery looks like a large, sleek domestic radiator, and at Aquila it has been placed defiantly on the outside of the house. It is silent (unlike the wind whistling as I venture out), with only a green pulse to indicate it’s active. For those wishing to delve deeper, an app shows how energy flows from the various inputs (solar, Powerwall, grid), displayed visually and in real time. It’s easy to see how checking it could become addictive. This might sound like a gimmick, but its users put a lot of stock in no longer being beholden to the seemingly opaque tariffs of the big-six energy suppliers.
Some energy firms have been quick to work with Tesla. Octopus has used its dynamic pricing technology to offer a new tariff for those with a Tesla car and Powerwall. This currently offers 8p per kWh drawn from the grid and 8p per kWh sold back. That export rate represents about 40% more than the best rates available under the government’s new smart export guarantee scheme.
Electricity prices are widely expected to rise this decade, and not just because of demand from electric vehicles. The cost of providing baseload power from new nuclear stations such as Hinkley Point C is proving to be extraordinarily expensive. Those staying on conventional energy tariffs should not expect rates to fall.
Still, the upfront cost of a Tesla Powerwall, solar panels and installation for a standard home — anything from £12,000 to £15,000 — make this a big-ticket purchase. Based on what we know about likely energy savings, investing north of £12,000 implies a payback period of 10 or more years, although this will depend on individual circumstances. I am certainly a convert, but a leap of faith may be required for those who wish to lead the charge.
This project was designed, delivered and installed by the Renewable Planet team located in Stockport, Cheshire.
Source: The Times
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