Scotland looks to do more with district heating

Scotland will publish its climate and energy plans on Thursday and there is a prospect that the country will do more to develop its district heating potential.

According to the BBC Scotland has been looking at schemes proposed by environmental groups and comparing with projects in Norway.

In the town of Drammen in Norway heating is a shared commodity, created off-site and piped into homes. The work was carried out by a Scottish firm; Glasgow-based Star Renewable Energy installed the heat pumps in 2010/11.

BBC Scotland queried the company on why district heating wasn’t more of a factor in Scotland so far.

Dave Pearson, from Star Renewable Energy, said: "I think it is a slightly abstract concept that we can harvest a river for heat. Rivers are quite chilly already. But really it's down to bringing a combination of technology which we're producing in our factory in Glasgow but also the imagination and the desire of the communities, the cities, the government to see better solutions."

In Aberdeen, a combined heat and power network is used to heat 2,500 council-owned flats and public buildings while also selling electricity to the grid.

Generators create the power while the warm exhaust from the engines is used to create the heat. Although there are no plans at present, ultimately it could be converted from gas to heat pumps using water from the sea.

Ian Booth, from Aberdeen Heat and Power, said: "Once the infrastructure is built you could actually bolt on at the front end other technologies as they improve.

"We're replacing electric heating systems with a combined heat and power fuelled system. The impact on the environment is about a 40% reduction on carbon."

In Norway, heat pumps rely on water from rivers and fjords which, around the surface, is about 8 degrees Celsius.

But Prof Janette Webb, from the University of Edinburgh, says Scotland has a source of much warmer water which could be exploited.

She said: "Right across central Scotland, not only have we got a lot of surface water we've also got underground mines, which are flooded now, which have water, in the deeper mines anyway, at about 30 degrees. We could extract heat from that water and use that to heat our buildings."

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