Gateshead District Energy Centre
By Paul Homewood
h/t Philip Bratby
Unlike conventional power stations, Gateshead’s District Energy Centre is capable of capturing waste heat created during the energy generation process and recycling it to keep buildings nearby warm. In addition the network has been designed to ensure the Energy Centre will be able to meet all the energy needs of future developments planned for Gateshead town centre, underpinning the redevelopment of the Baltic Business Quarter, plus the Gateshead Quays area and major housing developments.
The energy centre uses a pair of 2MW gas-powered combined heat and power (CHP) plants to generate enough electricity to power 5,000 homes, with the waste heat from the engines being recovered to provide hot water for heating.
Affordable energy and clean growth is a key pillar of the government’s Industrial Strategy green paper, with a clear commitment to ensure the supply of secure, affordable and clean energy for businesses and households across the UK.
CHP plants seem to be flavour of the day at the moment. I agree there is a certain amount of sense in recycling waste heat, as long as it can be done economically. There is obviously a trade off between the advantages of the CHP process, and lost heat and capital costs.
There is, in any event, nothing new in this. We were doing this at British Steel in the 1970s, and no doubt long before.
However, it is a bit of a stretch calling it low carbon, no matter for efficient the process.
Getting back to the question of costs, CHP projects already awarded CfDs have been given a guaranteed, index linked price of £84.23. This would suggest that they would not be economical without such subsidies.
Biomass CHPs earn even greater subsidies. The 300MW project at Teeside, due to open in 2018, will be paid £132.25/MWh. It will burn wood and will supply heating to nearby companies.
There is another issue however. For CHPs to make any sense, they obviously need to be near to potential customers, whether domestic or commercial. This therefore means that they are likely to be built in the middle of towns.
Gas may be clean burning in comparison to coal, but it is not totally free of harmful substances.
If they were simply CCGT plants, would we even dream of building them near centres of population?