Battersea Power Station to come back online as a low-carbon energy hub

London's iconic Battersea Power Station is set to start producing energy again in 2020 - 38 years after the last coal-fired power generation facilities at the site were decommissioned.

Battersea Power Station to come back online as a low-carbon energy hub

An artist's impression of how Battersea Power Station will look once redevelopment works are completed

Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC), which owns the iconic London site, has confirmed that a new, low-carbon energy hub at the facility will come online in 2020, after structural work on the hub was successfully completed over the Christmas period.

Located directly in front of the original building, the 73,000 sq ft underground facility will be fitted with three gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) engines totalling 7.3MWe and three gas-fired boilers totalling 30MWth.

Seven 60m³ thermal stores and six 4MWe chillers will also be installed. These devices use electricity to drive a compressor in a refrigerant cycle, transferring cool energy to a water circuit in order to produce chilled water.

The energy generated at the facility will be used to heat and cool the site and to provide hot and cold water to new domestic and commercial buildings being erected as part of Battersea’s ongoing regeneration. This will negate the need for a boiler at some of these properties.

Overall, BPSDC estimates that the facility will produce 5,000 tonnes less carbon emissions each year than a comparable coal-fired power plant – the equivalent of taking 1,000 average petrol passenger cars off the road.

“This energy centre will be a hugely important part of the new neighbourhood town centre at Battersea Power Station, supplying energy not only to its own community but potentially to other local residents nearby,” BPSDC’s head of technical services Gary Edwards said.

“This district heating concept is becoming more popular given all the benefits it provides, from reducing carbon dioxide emissions to increasing the security of energy supply.”

Once the facility is completed, it will be run by low-carbon energy management firm Vital Energi. The company confirmed last month that work to fit the CHP units, boilers, thermal stores and chillers is on track for completion by early 2020.

A heated discussion

District heat networks have risen in popularity in recent years, but still only account for around 2% of all space and water heating in the UK.

In a bid to spur the uptake of the technology, the UK Government recently launched a £320m scheme aimed at helping the UK’s public, private and domestic sectors install low-carbon heat technologies. 

Called the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) and overseen by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the scheme will offer grants and loans to businesses, hospitals, schools and local authorities with a heat network of two or more buildings.

Nonetheless, critics have argued that the UK Government should follow suit from its counterparts in mainland Europe in setting stronger planning policies in order to scale up district heat networks nationwide. In Germany, for example, all towns with a population of more than 80,000 people are legally required to host at least one network.

In total, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has estimated that the installation of large-scale district heat networks could reduce the capital cost of the UK’s heat networks by up to 40%.

Sarah George

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