The pilot of a new manufacturing facility which developers say 'will put Wales at the forefront of global renewable energy technology' has been opened this morning near Port Talbot. The UK Business Secretary Vince Cable, and Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones started the first production line at Baglan Energy Park.

Researchers from Swansea University have led the research, in partnership with other universities including Bangor, Cardiff, Glyndwr and others around the UK. The technology promises to 'turn buildings into power stations.' Steel and glass, which is coated to make it conductive, will be incorporated into buildings, so it's the fabric of the buildings themselves that generates, stores and releases the electricity.

Video from SPECIFIC (Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings)

It aims to provide a reliable source of energy at the point of use. The project's leaders say it could 'revolutionise building construction and make a major contribution to renewable energy targets.'

What we are achieving at the Baglan Bay Innovation and Knowledge Centre is of global significance. It has the potential to create a range of renewable energy applications which will be available commercially within a few years. The funding secured to date and the unique collaboration between government, academia and industry has enabled us to make rapid progress within a relatively short timescale.

The project, which targets developing the products so they can be taken up by large-scale manufacturers, is worth £20 million over five years. Half of the funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and Technology Strategy Board. The Welsh Government has also invested £2 million.

The team working at Baglan forms one of six new 'Innovation and Knowledge Centres' around the UK, given funding 'to accelerate and promote business exploitation of emerging research and technology.' A number of multinational companies are also on board, including Tata Steel, one of Wales' biggest employers.