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Innovative energy solutions for the purposes of energy and CO2 savings can be realised through clustering of commercial sites where heat is a by-product of processes.  Our key focus below examines how waste heat can be piped and used by other businesses or indeed multi tenanted residential installations in close proximity.

According to analysis done by Parsons Brinckoff and DNV GL in a report done recently, clustering can result in significant decarbonisation in the long term.

How do they envisage this working?

Clustering can reduce emissions by optimising the use of resources, for example, waste heat from one process can be used to benefit another process.  For example, waste heat recovery can bring further energy efficiency benefits through re-use of low grade heat by other heat users outside of the sector producing that waste heat, in turn increasing other benefits. Many of the decarbonisation options identified by Parsons Brinckoff - such as improved site and sector integration, carbon capture and biomass - could be enabled by further clustering. In certain cases, it can also allow the development of labour market expertise and skills in a cluster area, alongside research and innovation facilities. 

Clustering is a long-term, gradual option. The barriers to clustering are generally related to organisational collaboration and include the perceived risk of becoming reliant on a partner who may not be present in the long term. 

In order to support development of clustering, a high-level feasibility study on the potential across different sectors would explore opportunities including a forecast of possible markets or customers for waste heat and other by products. Studies such as these would help mitigate the risks associated with clustering, to support planning and incentive policies by government - both central and local - to encourage clustering. Infrastructure investments (in roads, ports, pipelines, etc.) would strengthen existing clusters and enable the development of new clusters.

An example of where and how this can work.

An example of a high level feasibility study examining the opportunity for clustering in Dublin was carried out in 2012. Dublin City Council commissioned a project to assess the market for heat demand to businesses and building owners in the Docklands Area in Dublin.

GIS mapping was used to estimate the levels of energy demand in the Docklands. In addition to establishing heat energy demand levels, the area was narrowed down to a targeted location within the Docklands area. Each building was required to be suitably located to import heat from planned pipework infrastructure along the River Liffey, focusing the study to a targeted area of Dublin City Centre.

The community in the Docklands was informed about the benefits of district heating, how it would function and specific attributes of systems which would export heat. The concept of using a more sustainable source of heat and reducing the demand for oil or gas was well received by both the community and business’s residing in the docklands area.  It is expect that some of this heat supply may in the future be drawn from the Dublin City Waste to Energy plant which is currently under construction. Controversial as the site in Ringsend is, the potential for exporting waste heat from Ringsend to the neighbouring communities is an excellent example of clustering on a citywide scale supported by a local government.  

A recent project carried out by Frontline Energy in Dublin is another good example of clustering on a slightly smaller scale.  The cluster in this instance comprised of a commercial office building with CHP equipment positioned to export heat to neighbouring buildings. The neighbouring apartment complex was built with a district heating system installed, specifically with thermal pipework infrastructure. These types of systems allow for importing of heat from external providers from a variety of potential heat sources. Designed and installed as a flexible future proof solution. 

The complexities of delivering projects of this scale can range from:

  • Ensuring economical operations 
  • Stakeholder collaboration 
  • Project implementation and works 
  • Legacy issues from existing plant and equipment.
Establish the opportunity – Verify the demand – Communicate to stakeholders – Establish the potential.

Typical obstacles to overcome when examining the opportunity of exporting heat:

Monitoring and verification of heat exported.  It is important for heat suppliers to clarify how heat is exported, how it is measured, and verify confirmation of the accuracy of the equipment being used to measure this heat.

Cost – agreements as to the unit price of the heat unit, how long the fixed rate should be applicable for and how this rate is calculated.
Reliability of supply for end users – ensuring a reliable and consistent supply of heat is maintained throughout the term of the contract.

As these types of agreements are made between commercial entities, smaller end users of waste heat for example can often feel unsupported as it is generally unregulated, however with the emergence of the Independent Heat Customer Protection Scheme in the UK and the UK government’s drive to regulate this area, these types of clustering initiatives will start to become more common place with better support over time.

Other articles that may be of interest:

A look at the Independent Heat Customer Protection Scheme.

District Heating Explained.

TedX video by Julian Alwood looking at the worldwide use of energy.

For more information get in touch with our team.