Top academic urges Scotland to harness hidden heat in rivers
A leading academic has called for Scotland to follow Norway's lead and use heat pump technology to provide large-scale, low-carbon heat.
Professor Paul Younger, who holds Glasgow University's Rankine chair of engineering, said: "It's now time for Scotland to focus its attention on the potential for heat pump technology to deliver low-carbon heat at reasonable cost.
"After all, we should be making the most of one thing Scotland will always have in super-abundance: water," he added.
Speaking before a Scottish Renewables event due to be held at the university in September, Professor Younger pointed out that the city of Drammen, Norway, is already being heated by thermal energy extracted from deep fjord waters, thanks to heat pump technology built in Scotland. "As is so often the case, the Norwegians saw the light earlier than us," he said.
"Meanwhile the Clyde, Forth, Moray, Tay, Solway - our own 'fjords', and the source of the word 'Firth' - flow by, delivering their renewable thermal content to the open ocean unused while heat poverty is such a problem for so many."
'Game changing' technology
Modern heat pumps use small amounts of electricity to turn cool water from rivers and lakes into hot water. In Norway, fjord water is already being heated from 2˚C to 90˚C, using minimal amounts of electricity.
The pumps can also be fed using water from underground mine workings, but Professor Younger's research has suggested that this option is not being used to its full potential. He discovered fewer than 20 examples of this type of project across the world, with two of these schemes being located in Scotland, providing heat for homes in Shettleston, Glasgow, and Lumphinnans, Fife.
The government currently wants to install 4.5 million heat pumps across Britain, some of which will use air as well as water. Experts have suggested that the energy generated using this technology could cut household energy bills by 20%. Plans for the UK's first large-scale heat pump system, which will be used to heat 140 homes and a hotel and conference centre in South London, were announced in March 2014. The UK's energy secretary, Ed Davey, described the development as "game changing".
In May 2014, edie.net reported that the National Trust had cut its operating costs by £40,000 per year, following the installation of the UK's largest marine-source heat pump at Plas Newydd, a country house in North Wales.