North West Bicester is set to be the UK’s first true zero carbon eco town and will feature the country’s largest domestic photovoltaic solar panel array as part of its composition.

COSPP online spoke to Steve Hornblow, Project Director for NW Bicester this week and he described a project where use of on-site renewable and cogeneration power is impressively comprehensive.

The solar aspect entails 17,500m² of panels mounted across the rooftops of all homes and the energy centre, to generate electricity.

“The first Exemplar phase will provide 393 homes, which will be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5,” says Hornblow. “Each home will have a true zero carbon rating, with heat and hot water being generated on-site by a highly-efficient, gas-fired combined heat and power plant (CHP). Excess electricity generated by the CHP will be exported back to the national grid.”
NW Bicester - UK first zero carbon town
The complete array of modern clean energy technologies, including a heat network, will backbone the initiative, which has been five years in the planning, since initiated by the UK government in 2009. Originally four eco-towns were planned but recession has dictated that only the Oxfordshire-based town will now go ahead.

“The district heat network is being installed in the form of Logstor Conti Series 2 pre-insulated underground pipework, providing high efficiency performance for residents, reducing heat losses, costs and carbon use, along with a Janbacha high efficiency CHP engine for generation of electricity. The energy centre is sized to accommodate the energy demands beyond the initial 393 properties within the Exemplar phase,” says Hornblow.

“The vast array of solar PV panels has resulted in the need for off-site mains power infrastructure reinforcement to accommodate the export loads predicted for both electricity generated by the Solar P.V array and the combined heat and power engine, with further need and plans to increase substation facilities within the area network as the works develop through to and beyond, the initial 393 properties.”

The energy centre installations are also sized to accommodate the local school, eco pub and office & retail facilities which will also benefit from the installation of PV roof arrays.

The development will promote lifestyle changes for carbon, energy and natural resource preservation, with added benefits to enable day to day sustainable lifestyle choices such as the provision of electric car charging points to private garages and communal car parking courts, the provision of A++ rated appliances and the installation of a home information system to each property, allowing personal monitoring of energy consumption and costs as well as displaying real time travel information within each home.

Hornblow told COSPP, “It really does set the standard for sustainable living in the UK and beyond.”

The development is scheduled to be completed by 2017.