A COMPANY has teamed up with a world leader in renewable energy technology to be at the forefront of the building industry revolution.

James Hargreaves Plumbers Merchants has entered into a partnership with German heating firm Wolf GMBH to develop, manufacture and supply solar panels.

As part of the Government's drive to make every new building carbon neutral by 2016, architects have to incorporate renewable energy sources such as solar panels in their plans to replace gas and oil heating systems.

The open-ended deal could be worth millions of pounds to James Hargreaves.

The Burnley-based firm has 19 offices across the north including bases in Blackburn, Accrington, Nelson, Clitheroe, Rawtenstall and Leyland.

It was formed in 1968 and employs 125 people, of which about half are based in East Lancashire.

It has now set up a division, James Hargreaves Renewables, to concen-trate on solar panel heating systems.

Gordon Rothwell, managing director, said: "It is easy to think that 2016 seems a long time off but the planning and preparation starts right now.

"We have taken steps to fully understand the implications of solar panel systems and all related forms of futuristic heating.

"The Government is very specific about what is required in the drive for efficient and environmentally-friendly energy and the announce-ment has caused a total rethink across the building industry.

"Architects and designers will have to incorporate solar systems in all their future plans to satisfy the new needs of national and regional building contractors and self-build enthusiasts."

The new partnership is expected to significantly increase the firm's annual turnover of £20million.

Wolf GMBH was founded in 1963 and has a workforce of 1,250.

It is located in Mainburg, near Munich, is a world leader in heating, ventilation and renewable technology.

Currently about half the solar panels systems sold across Europe are bought in Germany.

Steve Lauri, managing director of Wolf UK said: "We are delighted to have linked up with a firm renowned for foresight, professionalism and service.

"We aim to be the driving force across the region as more and more people seek information and product."

Friends Of The Earth said a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions came from homes.

Avril Hesson, the charity's co-ordinator in Burnley said: "I am absolutly delighted to about this.

"It will push forward the availability of renewable energy to ordinary people."