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River-Powered Homes?

River-Powered Homes?

We’re always happy to learn about potential new renewable energy sources! And that’s just what a million homes across England could be benefiting from in the near future, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Technology known as water source heat pumps relies on something called a heat exchanger to warm water coming from the sea, rivers, and other bodies of water. It uses a system similar to refrigeration (which doesn’t actually mean to cool things, but to move heat from one place to another).

The water-source heat-pump pipes are filled with a chemical fluid with refrigeration properties that extracts heat from water and releases it into the heat pump. To further amplify the temperature, the fluid is compressed. An expansion valve then lowers the pressure on the chemical, and the process starts all over again.

This is a potentially huge source of renewable energy!

More than six gigawatts of heat have been identified on the government’s new water heat map, which was launched at an energy drive at Battersea Power Station last Wednesday by Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Davey.

“We need to make the most of clean, renewable heat that lays unused in our rivers, lakes, and seas,” Mr Davey declared. “Doing this will help contribute to an energy mix that maximises clean, reliable, home-grown resources, rather than relying on foreign fossil fuels.”

At the end of June, the National Heat Map will be published. The primary aim of the map is to identify which parts of England where the heat distribution will be more economic and beneficial, showing the water sources that have the highest potential for the pumps.

The heat pump systems have a larger energy cost than the usual central heating radiators, so it is presumed they will work best in well-insulated buildings.

One example of the kind of saving that could happen when using the new systems can be seen at Plas Newydd, a National Trust house in Anglesey that has been running the system since May last year.

Plas Newydd in Anglesey has used the system since last MayThe house is considered one of the finest old mansions in Wales, originating some time in the 14th century. Because of its age and status, the Trust doesn’t want the house to get too hot, so the system is ideal for regulating the temperature there.

A marine source heart pumps water from the Menai Straits to the house. The 300kW pump costs £600,000, which sounds like a lot of money to run. That is, until you take into consideration that the Trust saves around £40,000 a year in operating costs using the new technology over more traditional temperature-control systems.

And more than a million homes in the UK are close enough to the 4,000-plus potential sites that these properties could do away with the old-fashioned gas-fired domestic heating. It could also mean the average household could reduce its carbon footprint by as much as 50% and cut their energy bills by up to 20%.

The Canal and River Trust takes care of around 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wakes. Chief Executive Richard Parry said that the Trust already has a number of innovative ideas running on their rivers and canals, which are benefitting waterside business and the environment.

“200 years after they were built,” he said, “the waterways are still bringing a whole range of benefits to the nations.”

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