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New district heating schemes for London and Solihull

District heating is going through a period of expansion in the UK, with innovative projects planned for two areas of London and Solihull town centre in the Midlands.

First, ENGIE has signed a 25-year agreement for the provision of low-carbon district energy services at the landmark Battersea Power Station regeneration site in London, where a £9bn regeneration project will see the creation of a mixed-use riverside development of homes, offices, culture and leisure venues, all served by an extension to the London Underground Northern Line.

The long-term contract involves the adoption of an energy generation centre and the pipework distribution network – including operation, maintenance and lifecycle replacement of the system. ENGIE will also provide metering and billing services to customers, and consumer services to each residential and commercial unit. 

The network incorporates gas-fired combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP), or trigeneration technology; providing efficiently-produced energy and enabling affordable heating and cooling to businesses and homes on the development. ENGIE will provide an initial 9 MW of heat and 5 MW of cooling and will begin to serve the first phase of the Battersea Power Station development this year. 

The use of trigeneration should deliver carbon savings of up to 30% compared to traditional methods of heat and cooling supply, says ENGIE.

Also in London, the same company has begun work on a new heat network to serve future developments in the Nine Elms area of London – another of the capital’s largest brownfield regeneration sites. The £30mn project will see ENGIE design, build, operate and maintain a district energy scheme to provide low-carbon heat to new developments across the site. The initial phase will incorporate an energy centre with over 3 MW of generation capacity and the installation of 1.5 km of pre-insulated steel pipe network.

This first phase of the scheme will serve planned development within an area of Wandsworth close to the US Embassy and EcoWorld Ballymore’s Embassy Gardens; but is being built to enable expansion to serve surrounding areas in the future, says ENGIE.

It is envisaged that over 3,500 homes and 75,000 m2 of commercial space in the Nine Elms area will be able to benefit from the new network, which is part of The London Plan. 

Meanwhile, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has secured £6.6mn of Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) grant funding to support the commercialisation and construction phases of the Solihull Town Centre Low Carbon Energy Network. The Council last year voted to ensure that its activities are carbon neutral by 2030 and is working with the West Midlands Combined Authority towards meeting the region’s target of net zero emissions by 2041. 

Solihull was first identified as a potential heat network location in a 2016 Heat Mapping Report, due to the density of heat demand loads located near to council offices and the scale of new commercial and residential units to be brought forward in the town centre masterplan. 

An open loop ground source heat pump (GSHP) was approved as the preferred heat source option in January 2019, but problems with the pumping energy requirements for the aquifer and the recharge rate of the boreholes rendered this scheme nonviable, according to Triple Point Heat Networks. The council decided to utilise a combination of a 1.7 MWth air source heat pump (ASHP), a 1,560 kWe gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) engine and auxiliary gas boilers.

The first phase will connect nine existing buildings with multiple plant room connections, and one commercial development on council-owned land. A further two phases of the Solihull Town Centre Network have been recognised which could extend the network further within the Town Centre and further north.

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