A REVOLUTIONARY £8.9 million project by York-based Shepherd Construction will be carefully monitored by the British building industry.

One entire wall of Shepherd's OpTIC project, creating a national venue for science and technology in Wales, is smothered in 2,400 high-tech solar panels which will generate electricity for the facility.

Once the more than 25,000 sq ft Optronics Technology and Incubation Centre (OpTIC) is completed by Shepherd for the Welsh Development Agency in December, it will become the first "demonstration" building in Wales under the Rethinking Construction Movement for Innovation.

The solar - or "photovoltaic" - panels were exported from the US to Europe for rigorous testing to ensure the correct wattage output before the four-week process of fitting them began.

This involved assembling the 140cm by 35cm panels into banks of five before being lifted and fixed into place with special clips.

Now the solar wall - the largest of its type in Europe - will have a peak output of 85kw, enough to power much of the building's electrical needs.

Updated: 10:33 Tuesday, October 21, 2003