SPECIFIC IKC – The Active Office
Led by Swansea University, SPECIFIC is a UK national Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) with partners including Tata Steel, NSG and AkzoNobel. The center was established in 2011 to research how innovative technologies, such as solar collectors, can be deployed to make buildings more environmentally responsive. Active buildings “support the energy network by intelligently integrating renewable energy technologies for heat, power and transport” (SPECIFIC).
The SPECIFIC Active Office is an energy positive concept: it generates more energy through its renewable energy installations than is used to operate and heat the building. SPECIFIC aimed to demonstrate the active building concept, by using commercially available technologies, and provide a solution that is replicable and scalable.
Virtu heats water and generates electricity for the building. With high energy density, Virtu can generate up to 3.5x the energy outputs of solar PV, for the same area. Included in the Active Office energy system are 40 Virtu hybrid solar collectors, providing heat and power to the building.
The collectors are mounted on the south-facing facade of the office and have been operating since January 2019. In combination with a roof mounted PV array, the electrical output is directly in the building. The solar heat is stored in a 500-gallon thermal storage tank via an indirect coil, and this heat is used for sanitary hot water and space heating. The Virtu array is monitored using Naked Energy’s monitoring platform, Clarity247, which enables SPECIFIC to identify potential outages and to track generation and monitor the system’s performance.