Brid­gend takes the lead with its re­new­able en­ergy projects

Glamorgan Gazette - - Your Views - LIZ BRADFIELD news­[email protected]­

BRID­GEND county is lead­ing the way with re­new­able en­ergy projects as one of just three places, along­side Manch­ester and New­cas­tle, in the UK to test pi­o­neer­ing schemes which could then po­ten­tially be rolled out across the coun­try.

One of those is the first ever large-scale minewa­ter en­ergy scheme to be cre­ated in the UK with an­other be­ing an underground heat net­work in Brid­gend town for homes, schools, hos­pi­tals and busi­nesses.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Brid­gend County Bor­ough Coun­cil – which is look­ing to de­car­bonise by 2050 – is work­ing with pri­vate com­pa­nies such as Hi­tachi and West­ern Power Dis­tri­bu­tion on a multi-mil­lion pound part­ner­ship to bring for­ward a mar­ketable en­ergy prod­uct.

The Caerau minewa­ter project

Could coal min­ers ever have imag­ined the black pits they spent their days in would one day con­tain the hope of cheap, clean en­ergy?

Con­struc­tion work on the Caerau mine-wa­ter project near Maesteg is due to be­gin in 2020 with the first homes be­ing con­nected to the sys­tem in win­ter 2021.

It comes af­ter test drilling into the mine work­ings un­der the Old Brew­ers site in Caerau found that the min­ing void was full of wa­ter to a depth of 230m – and had a tem­per­a­ture of 20 de­grees cel­sius.

The project is based on tech­nol­ogy be­ing used in Heerlen, a city in the Nether­lands, and is made pos­si­ble due to the nat­u­rally-heated wa­ter from the old coal mine.

Us­ing heat pump tech­nol­ogy and a net­work of pipes, the project will be­gin by heat­ing around 150 nearby homes, the lo­cal school and church.

The idea is to pump the wa­ter to a heat trans­fer­ence sys­tem above ground which is the size of a ship­ping con­tainer.

Here the heat will be ex­tracted out of the mine wa­ter - with the mine wa­ter be­ing pumped back into the mine to warm up again - and trans­ported through a net­work of pipes to peo­ple’s homes.

The heat will get passed through a heat pump and then heat homes us­ing their ex­ist­ing ra­di­a­tor sys­tems.

The mine-wa­ter it­self would not, at any point, en­ter peo­ple’s homes.

The coun­cil hopes it will get around 150 vol­un­teer homes to sign up to the scheme who will then have the equip­ment put in for free.

Brid­gend County Bor­ough Coun­cil’s (BCBC) cab­i­net mem­ber for com- mu­ni­ties Richard Young said: “Ei­ther in peo­ple’s homes or out­side it there will be a heat trans­fer­ence piece of equip­ment the size of a fridge.

“The resid­ual heat that comes into a house will be boosted once more and it’s that that will heat the home.

“It is a new way of heat­ing a home. The cen­tral heat­ing sys­tems we cur­rently use are very in­ef­fi­cient be­cause you’re burn­ing gas or fuel ev­ery time you heat your home which then cools down when you turn it off and has to warm up again when you turn it on.

“With this new way you will just leave it on. It cre­ates an am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture that you’re com­fort­able with all the time.

“We are go­ing to put the whole net­work in once the trial has been proven and then link all the prop­er­ties up to it.

“It will be a cheaper way of heat­ing homes for peo­ple be­cause you’re not re-warm­ing the air all the time – it will cut out the need for gas.

“We are hop­ing to use re­new­able elec­tric­ity to enable the heat trans­fer­ence.

“As far as the tech­nol­ogy goes we know it works be­cause this very sys­tem is be­ing used in the Nether­lands.

“We’d like to heat about 1,000 homes. Caerau is a small min­ing vil­lage which is the fifth most de­prived po­lit­i­cal ward in Wales.

“The scheme can also be looked at as a means to fight fuel poverty.

“It’s hard to say how much cheaper en­ergy prices will be but I’d be dis­ap­pointed if we haven’t re­duced bills by about £120 a year – around a quar­ter – which is quite sig­nif­i­cant. That’s a rather con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate but I’d rather spec­u­late on the lower side than higher side.

“If you’re not work­ing and you’re in poverty then a sav­ing of over £120 a year is sig­nif­i­cant.”

The scale of the £9.4m scheme will be the first of its kind in the UK and would use ex­ist­ing ra­di­a­tors.

It in­cludes a £6.5m Welsh Euro­pean Fund­ing Of­fice grant with BCBC fund­ing of £400,000 and grants from UK Govern­ment and the Welsh Govern­ment.

The project has a large num­ber of stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing Cardiff Univer­sity, Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales, and The Coal Author­ity.

Cllr Young said: “Once we’ve proven it works in Caerau it should work else­where – South Wales is hon­ey­combed with mines.

“What a legacy for all those min­ers who went down underground – they sweated, they laboured, they got in­jured, some­times they died.

“Now as a re­sult of all that labour, we are now in a sit­u­a­tion where we can pos­si­bly heat homes with clean en­ergy - what a trib­ute to that, what a legacy that they left.”

Ini­tially there was some op­po­si­tion to the plans in the vil­lage but Cllr Young says this di­min­ished once res­i­dents were able to see how the heat­ing sys­tem would work.

He said: “As hu­mans we view change as a threat un­til it’s ex­plained to us and we un­der­stand what’s go­ing on and we can see it is an im­prove­ment.

“At the be­gin­ning peo­ple feared we would be in­stalling a drilling rig and dig­ging holes, which is what we did when we were test­ing the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture. But once they saw how the tech­nol­ogy would work they could un­der­stand the dif- fer­ence it would make.”

As part of the scheme, chil­dren from schools in the Llynfi Val­ley have been learn­ing about how the heat be­neath their feet will be used to warm homes.

Speak­ing at a re­cent full coun­cil meet­ing coun­cil leader Huw David said: “Around 200 pupils have taken part in re­cent work­shops that have been spe­cially de­signed to take ad­van­tage of the scheme and ex­plain the science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics be­hind it.

“They have also learned about the val­ley’s rich in­dus­trial his­tory, and how mine work­ings at Caerau, Bryn Nav­i­ga­tion, Garth, Coeg­nant, Oak­wood, Maesteg and St John’s could be used to pro­vide a safe, con­tin­u­ous, ef­fi­cient and cost-ef­fec­tive form of heat for the lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

The Coal Author­ity will be work­ing on the site in the New Year to find out more about the flow of wa­ter in the mine work­ings.

Brid­gend heat net­work project

Brid­gend town’s heat net­work project in­volves mul­ti­ple phases.

The project’s £2m first phase in­volves the in­stal­la­tion of a com­bined heat and power boiler at Brid­gend Life Cen­tre which would then be used to warm not only the leisure cen­tre but the nearby bowls hall, the civic of­fices, and the new Sun­ny­side devel­op­ment be­ing built by Linc Cymru.

Sub­ject to ob­tain­ing a £665,000 grant from the UK govern­ment and a full busi­ness case be­ing ap­proved the net­work’s first phase will be op­er­a­tional in Oc­to­ber 2020.

A sec­ond scheme is be­ing looked into cen­tred on the Princess of Wales Hospi­tal, Glan­rhyd Hospi­tal, and the Wild­mill Es­tate.

And fu­ture phases in­volve the net­work ex­pand­ing to con­nect dozens of schools, houses in Brackla, the Parc Afon Ewenny devel­op­ment, South Wales Po­lice Head­quar­ters, and in­dus­trial parks.

BCBC first be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing heat net­work op­por­tu­ni­ties six years ago seek­ing to se­cure heat sup­plies over a 50-year pe­riod, re­duce car­bon emis­sions, and re­duce en­ergy costs for cus­tomers.

BCBC which has de­vel­oped the project hopes fur­ther heat net­works will be built across the county with the po­ten­tial for in­ter­link­ing them over time.

Cllr Young said: “The boiler cur­rently used to heat the swim­ming pool at the Life Cen­tre is com­ing to the end of its life and has to be changed.

“We’re go­ing to put in a larger heat sys­tem that would also serve the net­work.”

Cllr Young says with the roads be­ing dug up to in­stall the pipes there is an op­por­tu­nity to in­stall the lat­est tech­nol­ogy in peo­ple’s homes.

“We are look­ing at putting in things like su­per­fast broad­band and elec­tric hook-ups for buses, taxis, and pri­vate ve­hi­cles.

“We’re also look­ing at tech­nol­ogy which can be used in so­cial care such as sen­sors in homes which would trig­ger if an el­derly per­son had a fall and was un­able to get up.

“If they broke their hip, in­stead of them ly­ing there for three days and no­body find­ing them, the sen­sors would pick up there was a prob­lem here and alert the right depart­ment which needs to be called out.”

The £120m In­dus­try Chal­lenge En­ergy Fund

BCBC is due to find out shortly if it has been suc­cess­ful in its bid for £40m from the UK Govern­ment’s In­dus­try Chal­lenge En­ergy Fund.

The fund­ing is to be used to forge part­ner­ships with pri­vate com­pa­nies and trans­form the way en­ergy is used and pro­duced.

Brid­gend’s place as one of three demon­stra­tors in the UK un­der the UK Govern­ment-led Smart Sys­tem and Heat Pro­gramme has en­abled the bid.

Cllr Young said: “We are work­ing with a num­ber of com­pa­nies al­ready from Cenin Re­new­ables – which is where we send all our kitchen waste to be turned it into en­ergy - to Wales & West Util­i­ties, West­ern Power Dis­tri­bu­tion, and Hi­tachi, which is look­ing at the dig­i­tal side of en­ergy.

“The aim is to work with the in­dus­try to bring these forms of re­new­able en­ergy into a mar­ketable prod­uct.

“We have to have part­ners in the pri­vate in­dus­try – our job is to cre­ate the sys­tem where there’s a mar­ketable prod­uct for it to go for­ward.

“It needs to be­come at­trac­tive to en­ergy gen­er­a­tor com­pa­nies to of­fer it to cus­tomers.

As­sess­ments tak­ing place on the Caerau Minewa­ter scheme in early 2018

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