Some of Scotland’s most densely populated communities are sitting on what could, quite literally, be a hotbed of limitless clean energy. Though our coal industry is pretty much dead and buried, the landscape today still bears the legacy of a long history of mining across the central belt. And it’s this network of disused shafts that experts believe could hold the key to what is a potentially massive – and so far virtually untapped – resource of green power derived from geothermal energy. Two small-scale experiments using ground source heat pumps to tap warm water collected in defunct mines in Glasgow’s Shettleston and Lumphinnans in Fife have already proved successful, but those who know about these things say it’s time to think bigger, much bigger. The British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s main funding body for earth sciences, have unveiled plans to investigate the true scope of recovering heat from water trapped deep underground in abandoned mines in a pioneering new project that will be based either in the east end of Glasgow or in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire. The proposed Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site is one of two such schemes being put forward as part of the £31 million UK Geoenergy Observatories Project. The other one will be in England.
A pioneering project to produce power from hot rocks several kilometres under the ground in Cornwall will begin drilling early next year, if a multimillion-pound fundraising drive succeeds. Abundance, a crowdfunding platform overseen by the main City regulator, will this week launch a bond to raise £5m for the UK’s first commercial geothermal power station, located near Redruth.
A tech firm has taken the principle behind hand-warmers and turned them into big batteries that can heat a house using solar power. An East Lothian company with fewer than 30 employees Sunamp has developed at their base in Macmerry a heat battery that has already been installed in 650 Scottish homes, providing heat and hot water for about half the cost of gas.
The National Trust is continuing its march towards self-sufficient energy generation, having produced 12% of its heat from on-site renewable energy sources in 2016 – four years ahead of Britain’s national renewable heat targets. The British conservation organisation has also drastically reduced its reliance on oil consumption, with a 50% drop on 2009 levels, as of December 2016.
Illustrating the potential role of combined heat and power in balancing variable renewables an arms-length council-owed district heating company in Gateshead is set to boost its projected life-time income by nearly £1 million after signing up to a power demand-response scheme run by Flextricity based in Edinburgh. The Gateshead District Energy Scheme, which is currently being commissioned, and will be fully operational by mid-2017, has become part of Flexitricity’s demand response network netting the company more than £60,000 per year over the next 15 years for smoothing out peaks and troughs in national electricity demand.
Barrow Green Gas (BGG) has ‘launched’ biomethane into the UK national gas network for a record 33 biomethane producers – more than any other gas shipper in Great Britain – as new regulatory environmental reporting alongside financial reporting requirements impacts large corporate. Every month more green gas comes available via BGG as new biomethane producers connect to the grid and existing ones produce increasing amounts. Tim Davis, Managing Director, BGG, said: “2016 is the year where we have seen green gas really take off with increasing numbers of producers injecting green gas into the existing gas grid. This year we saw our gas being supplied to some of the UK’s leading renewable energy suppliers, with Good Energy and Green Energy UK offering green gas to customers. We are also supplying CNG Fuels with green gas as a transport fuel that is being used by Waitrose, John Lewis, Argos and Brit European – a great alternative to diesel.” The UK has the fastest growing green gas market in the world and dedicated biomethane shipper, BGG, is the largest shipper of biomethane. In addition, BGG markets green gas certificates (GGCs), the value of which is now considerably increased for companies when reporting their emissions.
Renewable energy technology that draws heat from the sea is proving effective in keeping one of Orkney’s newest buildings warm. The Warehouse Buildings – Orkney Islands Council’s multi-purpose facility in Stromness – are the first in the islands to be fitted with a sea-source heat pump. This uses warmth absorbed from Stromness harbour to provide heating for the buildings. Monitoring over a 12-month period shows this to be a cost-effective choice for the offices, which house the town’s library and customer services team, and provides a work base for staff from a variety of council services.
Sunamp are an amazing company, they produce batteries that store heat, charged by solar panels. Sunamp is preparing a pioneering project to transport heat from a waste treatment plant to the homes and businesses of Bristol – by barge. The company is in the process of applying to Innovate UK for funding for the novel scheme, which will see Sunamp extract heat from a waste processing plant in Avonmouth, store it in shipping containers and transport it by barge up the River Avon for use in Bristol’s district heating system.
A new NHS sustainability report reveals the health service could save in excess of £26m a year by increasing adoption of combined heat and power (CHP) technology. The Securing Heathy Returns Report, which analyses the financial value of key sustainability measures in the NHS, states that CHP provides the biggest energy-saving opportunity – amounting to £26.4m a year. That’s enough to fund the salaries of more than 1,200 newly-qualified registered nurses. The report, published by the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England, analyses 35 proven measures that it says could achieve a total of £400m of cost savings and reduce carbon emissions by a million tonnes every year by 2020. These interventions were selected because they are supported by robust data and evidence to enable analysis and scaling. Of the 18 energy-saving measures covered in the report, CHP provides the highest annual potential cost savings (£26.4m), followed by staff energy awareness and behaviour change (£21.5m); high-efficiency lighting (£7.2m); and reducing temperature set points by one degree Celsius (£6.2m).
Hundreds of thousands of homes are to be heated using warmth generated by industrial machinery, geothermal energy and even Tube trains, under government-backed plans for a major expansion of “heat networks”. More than a third of local authorities in England and Wales are now working on new schemes that transport heat from one source through pipes to hundreds of homes or businesses, according to figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph. About four in five homes are currently heated by gas-fired boilers but they will have to be replaced by greener forms of heating if Britain is to hit its climate change targets, which require carbon emissions to be slashed by 2050. Heat networks – effectively giant central-heating systems, which can supply entire neighbourhoods – are seen as one way of achieving this. They use insulated pipes to transport hot water or steam to homes, where it warms up the mains water supply through a “heat exchanger” unit. Ministers set up a “heat network delivery unit” in 2013 to award funding for the development of new schemes, and this week are due to announce the 38 councils that have won the latest £2.8m tranche to work on feasibility studies. This will bring the total number of local authorities working on such plans to 131, out of the 381 in England and Wales, with more than 200 individual projects in the offing. Many networks use heat produced by burning gas to generate power in “combined heat and power” plants. Although not zero-carbon, they are significantly more energy-efficient than letting the heat go to waste, and can offer a cheaper source of heat than everyone using individual domestic boilers.