Forres solar company helps build ‘House of the Year’

Lochside House in the north-west Highlands runs entirely off power from the sun. Picture: Marc Hindley

AES Solar, based in Forres, has made a significant contribution to the design and build this year’s House of the Year, announced on Channel 4’s Grand Designs last week. 

Lochside House is situated on the West Coast of Scotland and isn’t connected to any mains utilities. The house serves as a private retreat for its artist owner who fell in love with the tranquillity of the site miles from the nearest road or property. 

AES Solar designs, manufactures and installs solar panels, was part of a team of architects, builders and other trades which worked closely together to build the property in the north-west Highlands, now recognised as the best house in the UK. 

Sustainable use of energy

Project manager for AES Solar, Josh King, commented: “The key elements of this design are both aesthetic and practical. The solar panels blend seamlessly into the property and the property itself blends seamlessly into the location. It is an architectural masterpiece, and the solar panels contribute to that beauty of design.

“With no connection to mains electricity or gas, the solar panels provide a complete off-grid power supply that generates electricity through PV panels and heat through thermal panels. In this property, the two different types of panel have been designed to match perfectly and integrate into the charred larch cladding.

“It’s very gratifying for our team that the judges recognised the sustainable use of energy.”

The winner of the House of the Year was announced on Channel 4’s Grand Designs programme after the shortlist shrank from 20 to two properties.

Presenter Kevin McCloud, said: “This building has been tailored to the site. It is the kind of architecture we can all learn from.”

RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) president Ben Derbyshire also complemented the use of materials and their sympathy with the surroundings, describing the winning home as ‘truly breath-taking’.

He said: “With a highly sustainable approach to off-grid energy and water, it leaves the surrounding environment as undisturbed as possible.”

AES Solar is the only manufacturer of solar thermal panels in Scotland, and entering its 40th anniversary year, it is also the longest established solar company in Europe.

Unique and prestigious

Managing Director of AES Solar, George Goudsmit, added: “Apart from the technicalities of providing an off-grid solution in such a property, the logistics of getting hardware and engineers to the site, which is so remote, is something we had to factor into this project.

“Our longevity in the solar industry means we can provide the expertise for every instance. We have highly qualified and experienced staff that relish challenging projects, and the result is that we have some very unique and prestigious projects in our portfolio.” 

AES Solar was established in 1979 and has led the way in solar panel technology. Being a founding member of Scottish Renewables and the Solar Trade Association Scotland, the team at AES are involved with multi-national research and development teams into the future of solar energy. 

Marc Hindley
Author: Marc Hindley

Marc has worked as journalist and photographer all over Scotland. He also runs a PR and digital marketing agency Canary Dwarf. He has lived in Forres with his wife and three children since 2001.