‘Unique’ renewable heat scheme moves a step closer

South Tyneside Council has awarded the contract to construct a renewable energy scheme which would slash carbon emissions and save more than £500,000 a year to Colloide Engineering Systems Ltd.

The Viking Energy Network will harness low-grade heat from the River Tyne and export it to 11 council-owned buildings in Jarrow, including three residential tower blocks, two schools and sheltered housing.

Detailed designs have been drawn up for the system, which combines a river source heat pump, a combined heat and power back-up system, a 1MW solar farm and a private wire electrical network with storage battery.

The solar farm would provide much of the electricity to power the heat pump. CHP would be used on occasions when the solar panels hadn't generated sufficient electricity. An energy centre serving the network will be built on an existing council-owned brownfield site at Jarrow Staithes on the south bank of the River Tyne.

Councillor Joan Atkinson (pictured), lead member for area management and community safety, with responsibility for climate change at South Tyneside Council, welcomed progress on the scheme. “This district heating system will be the first of its kind in the country and we’re keen to drive it forward.

“This project is unique in that it combines the three renewable technologies, ensuring minimal use of fossil fuels. It should also run close to carbon neutral for much of the summer by using electricity generated by the solar farm to run the heat pump. Any surplus electricity would be used in council buildings.”

The project has attracted a £3.5m European Regional Development Fund grant. In addition, the plans will compliment the council’s drive to slash carbon emissions following a climate emergency declaration, including being carbon neutral by 2030. Atkinson said the scheme would be a “key component” in achieving this goal.

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