EcoBuild 2011

There were a couple of big questions in my mind on the way to EcoBuild. Would the event retain it’s audience with the move to excel? Would it be hit by the downturn or buoyed by FiT and RHI? Would an increase in size be good for the event, or would the need to sell more floorspace open the show up to snakeoil salesmen?
Well I didn’t meet any snakeoil salesmen but then I didn’t spend time with any of the hordes of PV salespeople that populated the show. I estimate that 30% of the acres of floorspace at Ecobuild are taken up by renewables sales teams. This is evidence of the impact that the feed-in-tariff is having on the market and opens up the question whether this is where out main effort should be targeted. I found only one supplier of PV-T (Anafsolar) at the show, which indicates to me that the quantity of PV sales effort isn’t being matched by levels of innovation in the product. PV-T is a technology that integrates solar thermal panels with PV panels that thereby improves the efficiency of both. These are currently only available from a few sources, but could become the most cost-effective way of achieving high code levels in some properties.
Did the crowd follow the show to Excel? At the busiest time of he day the show felt busy but not crowded, which was welcome as there wasn’t really enough room at Earls Court for the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see if the numbers agree with my estimate, but it looked to me as though the move has not hurt visitor numbers. The halls are big at ExCel, real aircraft hangars, which offers some opportunities but comes with some penalties. The distance travelled in a day to visit all the show must be a couple of km, so wear comfortable shoes! Bring a bottle of water and a snack as well, the prices at the show are ludicrous.
There are a lot of big stands (see pictures), a lot of money has been spent by a number of manufacturers on advertising their built product in the form of demonstration buildings, I counted six large installations. I question whether this is a good use of their money, among the stands I most enjoyed were the Jewsons and the Natural Building Technologies stands where they built small sections of building fabric to demonstrate their products.
An area where the organisers have work to do is on the organisation of the seminars. The one I was in was overcrowded, it got too hot, and when the door to the terrace was opened to cool things down, the noise of aircraft landing at City Airport disturbed the seminar. Another attendee remarked that the separation of the seminars from the exhibition floor resulted in a loss of the buzz of Earls Court. On the plus side the seminar rooms themselves are much better than at Earls Court.
The few seminars that did run on the exhibition floor suffered from acoustic problems, as you need a lot of amplification to make yourself heard in an aircraft hangar.

On balance I am relieved that the suppliers turned up in numbers and so did the people, ecobuild may be the new interbuild but it is here to stay.

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2 thoughts on “EcoBuild 2011

  1. Rory,
    Re: PV-T
    Having done some research work on the technology I think that you may have spoken to a PV-T snakeoil salesman. In theory the two technologies improve each others efficiency but in practice it just isn’t the case. And you can see why when you look at the premise of a Solar collector and a PV cell.

    A solar collector is built to get hot, really hot. By doing so it will maximise the efficiency of the panel and save lots of CO2 by offsetting gas and the electricity to move the water around the system. The PV cell on the other hand wants to stay cold to maximise it’s electrical efficiency.

    So you can see that for a PV-T panel to work you either:
    a) accept a lower efficiency PV panel by making it hotter to maximise thermal efficiency; or,
    b) you sacrifice thermal efficiency to get the optimum performance from the PV.

    Either way you can see that you’ll be compromising the use of a renewable technology, accepting lower carbon savings for the elements and potentially achieving no carbon savings at all from the use of the dual technology (imagine that scenario b) is selected and more carbon is used to pump the water than is saved by the heat captured).

    And thats before we’ve even had a look at embodied energy.

    • Good comment!
      The supplier I spoke to recommended using a heat pump with the PV-T to extract the heat from the hot water continuously to keep the temperature low. This sounds to me as though the ideal use of this tech is on large existing family homes with a large heat demand or on communal systems with thermal storage. So I agree that it is not for every renewable installation. The embodied energy question should be favourable as this is a more efficient use of roofspace and material than having two separate systems?

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