Landmark buildings on Tyneside will be among the first to be supplied with power by a new energy centre designed to cut bills and reduce carbon emissions.
The high efficiency, gas powered centre in Gateshead will provide low cost electricity and heat direct to buildings in the town centre and on the Quayside.
The first public buildings to be supplied with heat and power will include Gateshead Civic Centre, Sage Gateshead, and Gateshead College. Five residential blocks in central Gateshead, managed by the Gateshead Housing Company, will also be supplied with heat.
Following several years of development, supported by district energy specialists Parsons Brinckerhoff, Gateshead Council will shortly be awarding contracts for the construction of both the energy centre and the connections to buildings.
The first buildings are expected to be supplied from their new power source from early 2016.
The project is being led by Gateshead Council as part of its efforts to attract new business to the area, reduce emissions and cut energy bills.
Homes and buildings served by the new network are expected to save significantly on energy bills compared to their current suppliers, and this saving will be guaranteed to customers for the life of the scheme.
The project is expected to be fully self-financing, with the construction and operating costs for Gateshead Council being repaid over the life of the projects via energy sales.
Powered by a 2MW combined heat and power gas engine initially, the energy centre will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 5,000 homes, and has the capacity to be expanded to 6MW, as the scheme grows.
The electricity will be supplied directly to customers by its own dedicated cables, or “private wire”.
Any surplus generated will be sold into the National Grid. The waste heat created by generating electricity is used to provide hot water direct to the buildings through an underground district heat network.
This is almost twice as efficient as conventional power stations, where waste heat is lost to the atmosphere.
Plans and negotiations are underway for the next batch of buildings to be connected, which could include commercial buildings, hotels and offices. The network is also being designed to connect with up to 1,000 homes planned in a new community between the Felling bypass and the centre of Gateshead.
The new energy centre is to be built on Quarryfield Road, close to Baltic Business Quarter and Gateshead College’s Baltic Campus.
The council has also been awarded around £200,000 of grant funding from the Government’s Heat Network Delivery Unit, to explore extending the town centre network even further and adding even greener energy sources, as well as exploring other potential
areas for district energy schemes.
Gateshead Council cabinet member for environment and transport, John McElroy, said: “Rising energy bills are a major consideration for residents, public organisations and businesses. This project is intended to provide a direct solution by generating both heat and power locally.
“This innovative project will give existing businesses a clear advantage and, we hope, be a key feature in attracting new businesses, creating new jobs for the area.
“People living in the first five blocks in Gateshead town centre, which are managed by The Gateshead Housing Company, will be among those benefiting from the scheme. A key part of this project is also to provide an energy source for the planned commercial development on Gateshead Quays and Baltic Business Quarter, for which the council is currently in the process of selecting a development partner.
“The scheme can also provide energy to future housing developments on the old Chandless Estate and freight depot sites near the Felling Bypass, which should feature homes for sale and for rent.”
A contract for the construction of the energy centre will be awarded to Balfour Beatty Construction Ltd, another contract for the energy network will be awarded to Clancy Docwra Ltd while the contract for the combined heat and power engines will be awarded to Edina UK Ltd.
Construction work is expected to begin in March.