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Pentre Solar: Groundbreaking solar village

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The finished product: A ‘Ty Solar’ at the Pentre Solar hamlet

The finished product: A ‘Ty Solar’ at the Pentre Solar hamlet

PEMBROKESHIRE is set to be the home of the first solar village in Wales.

The village, named Pentre Solar, is situated at the Rhosygilwen estate and comprises six affordable houses which will use just 12% of the energy of a traditional home.

Funded by private sector company Western Solar, each three bedroom home has a modern design featuring a fitted kitchen, superfast broadband (as well as satellite and Freeview TV connections), a landscaped garden and, most interestingly, access to a shared electric car.

A highly innovative project, 80% of the heating needs for all of the properties will be provided by solar energy, meaning extremely low energy costs for future tenants. Adding to the sustainable nature of the build, the all timber homes also feature 11 inch insulation.

In an effort to address the affordable housing crisis in Pembrokeshire, the properties will be available for rent to those on the council housing register – and at 20% below the rental market rate. Those hoping to apply will need to have connections with the surrounding parishes; however, beyond that criteria, the houses will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.

The idea behind the ‘revolutionary concept’, according to Western Solar, is to ‘build a truly sustainable business that can benefit the local community’.

The Herald was able to speak to the man behind the ambitious development, Western Solar CEO and 2015 Eco Entrepreneur of the Year, Dr Glen Peters. As well as finding out a bit more about his links with Pembrokeshire, we discussed issues around affordable housing, the need for sustainable development, existing practices of the building industry, and future plans for Western Solar.

Having worked in London for some 35 years – and lived in Pembrokeshire ‘on and off’ for the last 20 years – Glen described how he ‘gradually fell in love with Pembrokeshire’, and has now based himself here full-time.

Discussing the need for a development such as Pentre Solar, Glen said: “There is unlimited demand for this – there are so many people in dire need of good quality housing.”

Admitting he wasn’t entirely sure of its accuracy, Glen referred to a statistic by Pembrokeshire County Council which estimated that the county is currently in need of some 6,000 homes.

One of the major obstacles in providing affordable housing, according to Glen, is ‘finding affordable land’.

He added: “Most of the available land to build on has been snapped up by developers.

“For a house to be affordable, you can’t have a plot that costs fifty to a hundred grand.”

Seemingly undeterred by this financial obstacle, Glen stated: “For every problem, we have to find a solution.”

The solution in this instance, Glen added: “Local authorities need to release the land banks that they have.”

Elaborating on this comment, Glen went on: “This is not ripping up green fields; this is disused properties. The whole concept of Pentre Solar is small little hamlets.”

Another issue which Glen found during the Pentre Solar development is a certain objection by financial institutions towards the building materials used for the project.

“This is not a traditional build; this is not bricks and mortar, so building societies don’t want to lend. “There is a physical barrier that we need to overcome about all timber houses.”

Developing on this idea, the question was posed as to how this new strategy for housing provision could change building industry practices in the UK.

Reiterating a previous point, Glen said: “The existing supply chains are all based around bricks and mortar; all the skills and all the trades are geared towards that as well.”

Contrary to modern practice, Glen emphasised: “Carpentry is the core skill for the house.”

With reference to ‘critical mass’, the eco entrepreneur went on to suggest the need for greater training and apprenticeship schemes for carpentry practices.

At the heart of the entire development is the theme of sustainability, with Glen stating: “The concept of recycling is very much at the core of our proposition. We’re recovering paper and using that as insulation – it’s all about trying to recycle, either the land, the insulation, the timber; we need that supply chain to be able to provide that.”

While the design for Pentre Solar was developed around sustainability, Glen admitted that not every aspect of the design was able to be implemented into the build. One such design was ‘rainwater harvesting’, a method of collecting rain and reusing it during the summer months.

With an eye on the future, Western Solar appear to have big plans in the pipeline. With reference to a comment about building 1,000 sustainable, affordable homes in the UK, Glen said how this falls under the company’s 10 year plan.

The company is also operating a three year plan which, if successful, will see the development of 100 homes ‘largely between counties in West Wales – Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion’.

Glen added: “The most important things are access to land and the finance. The idea would be to create another hub in Wales and replicate the same idea somewhere else.”

Building on this point, Glen said: “When we’ve got used to the idea of replication with the same system repeatedly, then we think we could get to our target of 1,000.”

Reflecting on the finished product of Pentre Solar, Glen said: “I’m very pleased – it’s one of those things with any project, you go through enthusiasm, excitement, and then you reach a point were you feel destroyed, and then suddenly you see light at the end of the tunnel.”

“The reality is absolutely amazing.”

Glen is currently looking for sites for his next development, stressing: “We need to work on our relationships within the local authority.”

Pentre Solar is not the first green initiative that Glen has received praise for; he was also behind the first ever ‘solar park’ in Wales. Completed in 2011, the near 10,000 strong solar park – which used cutting edge technology imported from the United States – is designed to utilise the often cloudy weather of the area.

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Appeal after woman sexually assaulted on cycle path near Haverfordwest

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POLICE officers in Haverfordwest are appealing for witnesses after a woman was sexually assaulted at approximately 4.30pm on Sunday (May 16).

The woman was walking along the cycle path between Haverfordwest and Tiers Cross when she was approached by a man who threatened and assaulted her, before walking away towards Haverfordwest town.

The male is described as a white male, between 5ft 4 and 5ft 11 tall , normal build with a welsh accent. He has short dark hair, a beard and a moustache, brown eyes, and wearing light blue jeans, navy/dark blue jersey with grey sleeves. Anyone who saw a man matching this description in the area between 3.30pm and 5pm in the afternoon.

A 35-year-old man has been arrested and is currently in police custody.

The cycle path is currently closed while the investigation continues.

Detective Superintendent Jayne Butler, who is leading the investigation, said “Incidents of this nature are extremely rare in the Dyfed-Powys area. The public may see an increased presence of police officers in the coming days as police investigate the incident. Anyone with concerns or information that could help our enquiries can speak to those officers or contact police. While a man was quickly arrested we would still like to speak to anyone who saw a man matching the above description in the area yesterday afternoon.”

Anyone with information which could help the investigation is asked to contact police. This can be done online at bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet endorses STEP Fusion application

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Cabinet have today endorsed proposals from Cllr Paul Miller (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) to further progress the nomination of a Pembrokeshire site to host a Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) fusion power station in the county.

Working with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the proposed site is adjacent to the existing energy facilities on the South Shore of the Haven waterway.

If approved, the facility will initially host research with the ultimate aim of developing this technology which could offer a virtually limitless source of clean electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economic Development said: “I am pleased my Cabinet colleagues endorsed this important programme of work. The Haven Waterway has provided livelihoods, underpinned by fossil fuels, for thousands of Pembrokeshire families, mine included, for more than 50 years. It’s my job to help ensure the waterway continues to provide high skilled, engineering, science and technology jobs for the next generation of this county – and so linked to our focus on climate change (and in addition to our existing multi-million pound commitments to supporting wind, wave and tidal clean power generation) my team have been exploring whether we can also support the development of clean, green fusion technology.

“It’s very early days in the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s site selection process but we’ll provide regular updates as things progress.”

•       STEP is an ambitious programme to design and build a prototype fusion power plant;
•       It is a UKAEA programme, currently with £222m funding from the UK Government to produce a concept design by 2024: https://step.ukaea.uk/

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Re-opening of indoor hospitality and attractions at Milford Waterfront

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RESTAURANTS and indoor visitor attractions in Milford Waterfront are welcoming the return of indoor services from today.

The re-opening of indoor dining allows all restaurants at Milford Waterfront to seat customers indoors. As well as all restaurants on the Waterfront now being able to offer this service, the brand-new Foam Domes overlooking the Milford Haven Waterway are able to open, with bookings being taken from the 19th May.

Indoor visitor attractions are also allowed to re-open. This includes the Waterfront Gallery, which is open today and Phoenix Bowl & Pirate Pete’s Adventure Play which is making preparations to open from Wednesday 19th May. Also, Milford Museum, which has had a new rendered exterior finish, is preparing to open for the end of May.

Lucy Wonnacott, Marketing Manager for Milford Waterfront commented: “We are delighted to see the re-opening of indoor hospitality and visitor attractions here at Milford Waterfront. Each business has their own safety and social distancing measures in place and we kindly ask that you respect and adhere to these for your own safety, and that of others. We hope you enjoy your visit to Milford Waterfront and stay safe!”

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