UK – Star Renewable Energy and E.ON are set to collaborate in a district heating project in Exeter which aims to demonstrate how heat pumps can replace CHP for lower cost and lower carbon heating. The project will feature an innovative large scale heat pump system from Star Renewable Energy and E.ON working in tandem with a solar energy installation to supply E.ON’s community energy centre in Cranbrook, east of Exeter, with renewable heating and hot water.
The two companies claim that the emission-free, low carbon heating venture is the first of its kind in the UK to combine large scale heat pumps and solar thermal panels with contributions from solar photovoltaic and dedicated heat storage provision in a large scale district heating network.
Funding for the scheme was obtained through the DECC and the scheme is one of nine schemes sharing a £6 million funding allocation. The Exeter scheme is a joint venture which comprises the energy company E.ON, the University of Exeter and technology provider SK Solar. The stated aim of the project venture is to seek to improve the performance of heat networks by demonstrating how the combined technologies can replace or work alongside the existing CHP district heating scheme in an effort to ensure lower costs and also significantly lower carbon heating and hot water.
It is hoped that this innovative project will drastically lower the environmental impact of warming local homes, businesses and buildings in Cranbrook and the surrounding area.
Dave Pearson, Director of Star Renewable Energy, announced the project, saying: “The project is a new breed of heating solution and could offer Cranbrook carbon savings of up to 100% when compared to conventional gas boiler systems.”
One of the major challenges for the project partners is the operation, control and optimisation of the dual technologies to supply one of the country’s largest new-build district heating systems.
Star have been contracted to install a high temperature 80°C heat pump that will draw heat from approximately 2,000m² of ground-mounted solar thermal panels. The solar farm is expected to produce hot water at 55°C during the day, which is slated to be boosted to 80°C overnight at the time when electricity is at its cheapest to allow the system to meet peak morning demand. The harvested heat will eventually be delivered to 3,500 new homes in Cranbrook, as well as 1.4 million square feet of Skypark industrial space, via a network of ‘super-insulated’ underground pipes. The new Skypark industrial space is also expected to provide over 6,500 new jobs in the region.
Mr Pearson further declared: “Smarter heating solutions can be a catalyst to more jobs and a better environment. This recalibration of our relationship with energy is about far more than ’green‘. It is the triple pillars of sustainability; people, planet and profit. The Renewable Heat Incentive support from DECC is bringing this opportunity to the masses and the support for big heat pump must continue.”
Tim Rook, Head of Design for Community Energy at E.ON (and formerly the sustainability manager at Space Engineering) commented: “It is fantastic to see the Government supporting innovative engineering that has the potential to change the low carbon heat landscape so dramatically. By combining these technologies and an advanced control system to select and manage multiple energy sources we have the potential to create a viable heat source that is truly renewable and independent of a fuel source. In years to come the integrated technology we are pioneering here could be replicated in existing and new-build district heating schemes across the country and would make a significant contribution to easing the impact on the environment which comes from domestic heating.”

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