South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee approved plans for the ‘Viking Energy Network’.
The project will work by heating water extracted from the River Tyne and exporting it to several council-owned buildings in Jarrow, including the town hall, sheltered accommodation schemes and two schools.
Detailed designs for the system include a water-source heat pump, a combined heat and power back-up system, a solar farm, battery storage and associated electrical works.
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An energy centre will also be built on the south bank of the Tyne, with a series of ducts and pipes to distribute heat to the various sites.
Council chiefs say the scheme will cut South Tyneside Council’s annual carbon emissions by more than 1,000 tonnes and save the local authority around half a million pounds in fuel costs per year.
In addition, the plans will support the council’s drive to slash carbon emissions following a climate emergency declaration – including taking ‘all necessary steps’ to make the council carbon neutral by 2030.
The Viking Energy Network was unanimously approved at a Planning Committee meeting, which was held on March 29 via videolink and broadcast on YouTube.
A report prepared for councillors named the buildings which will benefit from the district heating network in future.
:: Clarendon, off Windmill Way.
:: Jarrow Business Centre, Strathmore (no. 11), Hawthorne (no. 13); Rolling Mill Road.
:: Birch Grove, Birch Street.
:: Palmer Community Hospital, Wear Street.
:: Jarrow Town Hall, Grange Road.
:: Wilkinson Court and Ellen Court apartment block, to the east of Jarrow Town Hall.
:: Monastery Court apartment block, to the west of Ferry Street / Friar Way.
:: Jarrow Community Centre, Cambrian Street.
:: St. Bede’s RC Primary, Harold Street.
:: Dunn Street Primary School / Children’s Centre, to the west of Minister Parade.
:: Curran House, to the north of Saxon Way.
Councillor Geraldine Kilgour welcomed the planning application and its aims.
“Having seen the amendments and seen the value of what’s to come from this, I think the buildings are really important buildings to us that are going to be serviced by this development,” she said.
“I think it’s a huge step forward for us to be at the forefront of this pioneering development.”
Initial proposals included removing a section of the wooden Jarrow Staithes to accommodate a floating pontoon, water pump and pipework linked to the water-source heat pump.
However, planners confirmed that this element had been redesigned after structural surveys found the plan would “increase the risk of collapse of further sections” of the locally listed structure.
An alternative option, a “cantilevered bridge supported by the existing staithe,” will be finalised as part of a planning condition.
The Viking Energy Network, which combines three renewable technologies, has been described by council officials as the first of its kind in the UK.
Water source heat pumps work by extracting heat from a body of water, compressing it to increase the temperature and then converting it into useful energy in the form of hot water in a network of insulated pipes.
The solar farm would provide much of the electricity to power the heat pump.
Meanwhile, the combined heat and power back-up – which would be used in the event that the solar panels do not generate enough electricity – harnesses the heat that is a by-product of the electricity generation process which would otherwise be wasted.
The council project has received £3.5million of funding from the European Regional Development Fund for its innovative approach.