The North East’s first district energy centre fired up its boilers for the first time last week, marking the launch of the first phase of a scheme that will see businesses, homes, and local bodies supplied with low-carbon heat and electricity over the next few years.
The 4MW Gateshead District Energy Centre uses two gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plants to supply the local Baltic Business Quarter. Under its first phase, the scheme will deliver heat and power to local businesses, art galleries and civic centres via a three kilometre network of underground pipes and high-voltage cables.
Up to 350 homes managed by the Gateshead Housing Company will also receive energy from the facility.
Various extensions to the network are planned over the next year, including the connection of a new 3MW battery storage system that should help to further lower its carbon emissions.
The project is the first of its kind in the region, the government claims, and will deliver low-carbon energy at “competitive prices”, according to Minister for Industry and Energy Jesse Norman.
“This investment in local energy supplies is intended to deliver low carbon energy at competitive prices for local customers,” he said in a statement. “It is a great example of the kind of local initiatives our new Industrial Strategy is looking to support.”
Earlier this year the scheme signed a deal with demand response firm Flexitricity to allow its power to be dialled up or down in response to peaks and troughs in national demand. The agreement is expected to bring in more than £60,000 a year for the local council, which owns the centre. Over the course of the 15-year contract, the agreement will result in around £1m of extra revenue for the project.
Advocates of district heating and combined heat and power plants argue they can deliver substantial emissions reductions as they are more efficient than generating heat and power separately, and can also be adapted to run on renewable fuels.