Work has begun on a transformative heat decarbonisation project that involves the installation of a water source heat pump in the University’s Energy Centre. Currently, this facility supplies heating and hot water to 17 buildings on the Whiteknights campus via an underground district heating network (DHN), primarily powered by gas.
The project is supported by a £2.2 million grant from the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero’s Green Heat Network Fund. This substantial grant, which is being matched by the University, will play a pivotal role in achieving a 10% reduction in carbon emissions across the University’s built estate. The new water source heat pump will take the lead in supplying over 50% of the current heating capacity to the DHN. In addition to providing heating, the project will also introduce a small district cooling network to specific science facilities nearby. This cooling system will operate as a free by-product of the heat pump’s operation, enhancing overall efficiency.
Once fully operational, the water source heat pump is projected to slash the university’s carbon emissions by 1,500 tonnes annually.
Dan Fernbank, Energy & Sustainability Director, said: “This project will have significant impact for the University and for the local area. The reduction in nitrous oxide emissions will be the equivalent to those of around 394 diesel cars per year, so this is good news from a local air quality perspective.
Professor Robert Van de Noort, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, said: “This is a flagship project for the University, and as with all our activities, we look forward to sharing our experience with the wider world and encouraging others to take similar actions.”
In terms of project transparency, a notable event was held on 5 October. The University invited funders, representatives from other universities, internal colleagues, and members of the project team to showcase the progress made and discuss the plans.
Presently, the University has successfully obtained necessary permissions from the Environment Agency and Wokingham Borough Council to begin drilling boreholes. These boreholes will be instrumental in assessing the underground water source (aquifer) for the project’s viability. It’s important to note that the system is designed to be non-consumptive, with only heat extracted from the water before it’s returned to the underground aquifer.
This ambitious project represents a significant stride in the University’s commitment to de-carbonising by 2030. In doing so, it aligns with its Net Zero Carbon commitments outlined in its Estates Strategy. It’s a tangible example of the University’s dedication to sustainability and its responsibility to the environment.
In a world where climate change mitigation is imperative, this project is not only groundbreaking but also serves as a model for others to emulate. The University’s commitment to a sustainable, low-carbon future is not just a campus endeavour; it’s a call to action for all.