UK’s first water-source heat pump project for district heating to be launched on the Clyde

Dave Pearson
Dave Pearson

A Glasgow-based renewable energy company is to launch the UK’s first water-source heat pump on the River Clyde.

Star Renewable Energy has been awarded funding to develop the 2.5MW water source heat pump on the Clyde at the Gorbals, which will provide medium temperature district heating to service existing buildings.

The £3.5 million industrial-sized water source heat pump will draw energy from the chilly waters of the Clyde and boosts it up to 80 degrees Celsius to cover over 80% of the building heat demand.

The Gorbals district heating network is set to deliver immediate carbon reductions of 50%, with 2035 climate change goals of 80% achievable when the electrical grid carbon content has fallen to 135gCO2/kWh. It currently averages around 350g/kWh in the U.K and 196gCO2/kWh in Scotland.

The renewable project – which has received a 50% loan from the District Heating Loan Fund, with the rest of the project funded with a grant from the Low Carbon Infrastructure Investment Fund (LCITP) – will be operated by an ESCO initially owned by Star Renewable Energy.

The company seeks to sell heat to nearby facilities at a price no higher than gas. Ownership is expected to be shifted to the public sector in 2028 as the project continues to accrue the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) until 2038. 

Dave Pearson, Director of Star Renewable Energy said: “It has been a long time since we proved from our heat-pump scheme in Drammen <near Oslo>  that heat can be delivered at high temperatures from sources such as rivers without using HFCs.

“It is frustrating that even with the support of the RHI, businesses have opted for burning gas in novel ways even when it is abundantly clear that the carbon footprint and exhaust emissions of gas CHP are not compatible with a low carbon society.

“This is in part due to a lack of knowledge and in part economic, as gas is cheap. Now businesses can have cheap heat that is lower carbon as well and without NOx emissions. Our message is “Don’t be scared of renewable heat. It creates jobs and supports  environmental goals without costing the Earth”.

“We are very pleased to have secured the support of the LCITP to bring a solution similar to Drammen back home to Glasgow and hope to be able to offer heat at as low a price as can be achieved with gas boilers – but with less than half the CO2 and no NOx or PM10 particulate emissions in the city.

“This project sends a message to everyone that heatpumps work and deliver now what we need for 2035 – no need to take half step and change later.”

The announcement of a renewable heat network in Glasgow has been welcomed by environmental organisations such as WWF.

Dr Sam Gardner, Acting Director of WWF Scotland, commented: “Cutting our reliance on fossil fuels for heating our homes and buildings is the critical next stage in the journey to a zero-carbon Scotland. 

“This exciting new project by Star Renewable Energy will apply tried and tested technology to draw heat from the Clyde that can then be used in sport centres, homes and offices. 

“It is fantastic to think that having played host to the industrial revolution the Clyde can now be the source of renewable heat, helping to stimulate Scotland’s part in the global low carbon industrial revolution.

“The challenge now is to build on this success as quickly as possible, and with Scotland having no shortage of rivers or coastline near our towns and cities this technology could play an important role in not just tackling climate change but supporting job creation and investment across the country.”

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