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Lewes first to use river energy to heat homes

Water management Model-2-2
The Lewes North Street Quarter scheme is set to become the first development in Sussex to use river energy to heat homes. The scheme will include a district heating system, which will use thermal energy from the River Ouse to heat the 416 new homes and workspace planned for the site.

The centralised system uses water source heat pumps to recover solar energy stored within the river and boosts this with a heat exchanger to create warmth. Water source heat pumps produce zero on-site carbon emissions and can reduce residents’ thermal energy bills by up to 20 per cent, in comparison to a gas boiler.

Santon North Street Quarter project director Clive Wilding said: “The North Street Quarter scheme will be one of the very first live work schemes to use heat pump technology. It will be the first time this technology has been used in Sussex and will result in lower carbon emissions and thermal energy bills for residents of the 416 homes.”

He added: “The district heating system is just one of a range of measures which will boost the sustainability and biodiversity of the site. Lewes residents told us they wanted to see a truly sustainable scheme during the three year pre-application consultation period and the North Street Quarter will strictly adhere to three key principles during its construction, build and occupation: Use Less First; Multifunctionality and Adaptability.

“With measures such as the district heating system, new cycle and pedestrian routes, a Sustainable Urban Drainage System and low emission, adaptable homes designed to ‘Lifetime Homes’ standards, the North Street Quarter will become one of the most sustainable places to live and work in the area.”

Mike Spenser-Morris, Managing Director of the Zero Carbon Partnership, installed the UK’s first large scale district heating system at Kingston Heights, in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, which harnesses the solar energy naturally stored in river water as its energy source.

He said, “The North Street Quarter will be one of the South of England’s early adopters of this pioneering technology that can provide almost unlimited amounts of thermal energy – heating, hot water and cooling – anywhere there is an open body of water, without the need to burn anything. The net result is that there will be zero on-site carbon emissions – a fantastic, environmentally beneficial achievement.

“The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, has recently announced a new Water Source Heat Map, mapping the potential of this low carbon energy and a drive to use this technology to power more than one million homes across the UK, and the potential is there to create heating and cooling for many more homes than that.

Mike Spenser-Morris went on to explain, “Water source heat pumps are extremely energy efficient and should reduce energy costs when compared to alternative, combustion-based forms of district heating. Below the surface, the heat from the river maintains a relatively stable temperature of approximately 7 to 10 degrees centigrade year round, regardless of air temperature. This is transferred through a heat exchanger and closed distribution pipework to heat pumps – using advanced technology developed by Mitsubishi Electric – which contains a refrigerant that ‘boils’ at below the river water’s low temperature and instantaneously becomes a gas. The refrigerant gas is put through a compressor which, like a bicycle pump does to air when pumped with a thumb over the outlet, becomes very hot very quickly – and via a heat pump boiler, transfers that heat to provide homeowners with their hot water and underfloor heating.

“In a world where climate change, carbon reduction and energy efficiency are at the top of everyone’s agenda, the open water heat pump system uniquely provides the very best heating solution all round. When allied to the green electricity to power it, the system produces no carbon emissions at all – a wonderful gift to our children and future generations.”

Planners at the South Downs National Park Authority are currently considering the scheme, submitted by site owners Lewes District Council and Santon North Street, which will include 40 per cent affordable and open market homes, a range of flexible employment spaces, a new riverside walk, improvements to flood defences and a health hub serving 26,000 patients.

Santon North Street has worked with the South Downs National Park and Lewes District Council to create a sustainable approach to the brownfield development. The scheme will also create new wildlife pathways to the River Ouse and the South Downs National Park.

The plans include a Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), one of the first in the district, which will create attractive open water rills and swales as well as green roofs on some buildings. SUDS alleviate the risk of downstream flooding by slowing water run off, while at the same time, providing an attractive habitat for wildlife. The green roofs will be planted with native wildflower species.

SUDS have been promoted by environmentalists and charities such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust for their ability to manage surface water and slow run off into rivers. The charities have promoted SUDS as an opportunity to bringing urban wetlands and other wildlife-friendly green spaces into towns and cities, providing an attractive environmental feature and educational resource.