DECC says its map, identifiying 40 urban rivers and estuaries that could provide 1 MW should help local authorities and developers to identify prime locations for low-carbon heat.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has issued the first-ever national map of rivers and estuaries that it believes can offer the requisite flow for water-source heat pumps.
DECC said itsmap ‘offers high-level information to help developers with their initial project scoping’, identifying sources capable of providing at least 1 MW of energy, enough to provide heating and hot water to around 400 - 500 homes. By way of comparison, the 2014 Cooling Award-shortlisted Kingston Heights water-source project provides 2.3 MW of heat.
Whilst a more detailed version of the map is expected to be published in the winter, in conjunction with a new National Heat Map, it is clear that this first map is designed to inspire potential developers, to kickstart development.
DECC said: “Rivers and estuaries in cities and towns across England could provide clean, reliable heating to thousands of homes and businesses. The map shows that there is around 40 urban rivers and estuaries that could provide large-scale renewable heating supplies to local communities through water source heat pumps, instead of traditional gas-fired or electric domestic heating.”
“The map is designed to help local authorities, private developers and community groups to identify prime locations to install large water source heat pumps, by aligning suitable bodies of water with areas where there is a high demand for heat. “
As Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey added his endorsement, somewhat enthusiastically: “It sounds like magic but using proven technology we can now extract some of the heat in our rivers and estuaries and use that energy to heat our homes and offices. I want to help communities across England use our waterways for this renewable heat and this new map is designed to help communities, councils and developers identify the most promising opportunities. If we can succeed on the large scale, it would cut Britain’s import bill and boost our home-grown supplies of clean, secure energy.”
A key part of this thinking is to use the heat pumps as part of heat networks, supplying from a centralised local source. Local heat networks currently only provide 2 per cent of the overall heating demand in the UK and the UK government is keen to provide support to see significant growth in this industry.
The news has been greeted with cautious optimism by those who developed the large high temperature heat pump technology. Dave Pearson, Director of Star Renewable Energy said: “I think it is significant even if it is joining some pretty obvious dots (as it is obvious that most heat demand will exist in cities and it is obvious that most cities are on rivers). The real challenge is in helping end users realise it can be done.”
“But it is most welcome that DECC have done the hard sums to prove the source capacity and with businesses therefore encouraged into the world of heatmaps, it will be easy to then pick off the big individual users of heat that could be established onto heat networks.
“The river heatmap coupled with several other strong initiatives such as the world class Renewable Heat Incentive will drive awareness and practicability to the point where we surely must see the adoption of the only heating solution that is over 150 per cent efficient - or perhaps several hundred per cent. Whether the driver is lower cost, lower global carbon, cleaner local air or just the simple macro-economics of reduced fuel imports, the signpost is the same: big rivers harnessed with big heat pumps to deliver big savings is the biggest energy advance in decades and the employment opportunities are also welcome. The technology proven with our project at Drammen, Norway shows that a river sourced heatpump can reach 90 deg C - warm enough to retrofit most buildings.”
Scottish Renewables and Glasgow University are organising a free seminar to help the market understand just how rivers can be harnessed, on September 10 in Glasgow. More details at: www.tinyurl.com/heat-seminar.