Waste energy from power stations to heat homes

Waste heat from power stations and large industry could be used to heat family homes according to a team of scientists investigating the possibilities behind the scheme.

The Energy Technologies Institute announced today (November 29) it would carry out a six month £140,000 project to look at storing large quantities of waste power station heat underground for use later in homes and offices.

Heat is the biggest drain of energy in the UK, accounting for 44% of all the country’s power use creating a total heat use of about 800TWh a year, about the same as the total amount released by all power generation and industrial processes as waste.

Currently 84% of British homes are heated by gas, but it’s unlikely the UK will be able to meet its commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 if it continues to burn natural gas in individual homes and buildings.

The study, which is due to finish next summer, will investigate the cost effectiveness and practicalities of storing large quantities of heat for long periods to meet a ‘significant proportion’ of the UK’s winter demand.

ETI chief executive, Dr David Clarke, said: “Capturing even 10% of this waste heat would have a significant impact on the UK’s total carbon emissions and security of supply, helping reduce our need for large quantities of imported fuels in the winter months when prices are highest.

“Most industrial processes, especially electricity generation, produce large quantities of heat which is usually emitted as waste to our rivers, sea and air.

“One of the main obstacles for making use of this waste heat is that it is not available at the same time and place as the demand.

“However it is technically possible to store very large quantities of heat energy below ground in geological structures such as saline aquifers or disused mines.

“The heat could even be accumulated through the summer to be used during the winter.”

The ETI project will be led by consultants Buro Happold and will be supported by Cambridge University, the British Geological Survey and IF Technology Group.

Luke Walsh

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