Solar home makes it pay as the sun shines

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The Independent Online
NICHOLAS SCHOON

Yesterday's intense sunshine turned Susan Roaf's north Oxford home (above) into a power station. The solar cells, which cover half her roof, supply power to all of her home's electrical equipment and lighting, charge up her electric car and provide a surplus which is exported into the local grid.

Ms Roaf, a lecturer in architecture at Oxford Brookes University, formally opened the home she designed yesterday. She lives there with her two young sons.

She anticipates fuel bills of only pounds 10 a year. On a long sunny day she reckons she will earn10p to15 p in sales of electricity to the grid while charging up her 25 mph Danish three seater car and supplying all her own needs.

But the system has no storage capacity, so when the sun goes down she will still have to buy about 2p worth of power for her lights. On short, cloudy winter days she will be a net purchaser of electricity. The house can be heated by gas and a wood burning stove when sunshine is too weak to do the job.

The house is of conventional appearance but is super-insulated and all the electrical equipment - television, personal computer, washing machine and dishwasher as well as lights - is the most efficient found on the market.

The roof has solar panels for heating water and photovoltaic cells which, at full output, can generate three kilowatts of electricity.

Ms Roaf puts the extra cost of her ultra-low energy, non-polluting house at pounds 25,000, much of which was met by industrial sponsors. The environmental group Greenpeace is publicising the home.

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