Gateshead Council has been awarded a £5.9m grant to double the size of its town centre heat network, potentially benefiting over a thousand new homes.
The Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) grant will allow the council-owned Gateshead Energy Company to install up to 5.5km of new heating pipes to the east of Gateshead town centre.
Up to 1,250 new homes, a care home and other council-owned buildings in the area are set to benefit from the further 12 gigawatt-hours of heat the pipes will supply.
The funding will also help the council to install a 6MW water source heat pump, which will extract heat from the water in disused mine workings underneath Gateshead town centre.
The extension of the District Energy Scheme will connect to the new homes within Gateshead’s Exemplar Neighbourhood, the town’s largest new-build development site.
This would include the 300 home development on the site of a former freight depot currently being considered by Gateshead Council’s planning department.
Cllr John McElroy, Gateshead Council Cabinet member with responsibility for energy, said: “The council has always seen the development of low-carbon energy as key to meeting our climate change goals, but also in generating lower-cost energy for residents and organisations in Gateshead. This grant allows us to take this one step further.
“This new proposal uses a source of energy that is already under our feet but which is virtually unused. Thanks to the continued development of heat pump technology, we are at last able to properly exploit this abundant untapped heat source and use it to warm thousands of homes and businesses in Gateshead.
“We have been looking at this proposal for some considerable time, so the award of this grant is timely and its means we can now begin to bring it to fruition.”
Gateshead’s District Energy Scheme already provides affordable low carbon heat and power to hundreds of homes in Gateshead town centre, as well as major Gateshead buildings such as Gateshead Civic Centre, Gateshead College, Sage Gateshead and BALTIC.
Electricity for the scheme is currently generated by a gas-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) centre near Gateshead Quays, while waste heat is captured during the generation process – a process roughly twice as efficient as a conventional power station.
This heat and power is then distributed to buildings connected to the network via an underground system of heat pipes and high voltage electricity cables.
The proposed mine water heat pump will enable the Gateshead Energy Company, which operates the District Energy Scheme, to reduce its reliance on combined heat and power, further reducing the council’s carbon footprint.
Cllr McElroy added that there is ‘huge scope’ for further initiatives like this in Gateshead due to the miles of flooded abandoned mine workings under Gateshead town centre.
“It is particularly satisfying that we can exploit the forgotten remains of an old industry – and a heavily polluting one at that – to create clean green energy,” he said.
Gateshead is just one of several Northern towns and cities whose homes are benefiting from council district energy schemes.
Earlier this year, Leeds City Council announced that almost 800 homes have now been connected to the city’s district heating network, with more residents set to be switched onto the new system over the coming months.
Once the first phase of the scheme is completed, it is estimated that Leeds’ ‘PIPES’ network will save tenants between 10-25% on their energy bills and reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 11,000 tonnes a year.