With government incentives driving demand for renewable energy, the Environment Agency has published a good practice guide to support the case for ground source heat and cooling systems as a viable source of sustainable energy. The Environment Agency hopes that the guidance will encourage developers and architects to consider this technology option.
Ground source heating and cooling systems transfer heat between buildings and the ground beneath them. Installed in a typical three-bed house, these systems can reduce energy bills by as much as £530 per year and carbon dioxide emissions by more than 5 tonnes per year, compared with an electric heating system, the guide says.
By 2050, ground source heating and cooling systems have the potential to provide up to 29% of total UK built environment heat demand, the government has estimated.
Environment Agency research indicates that there are currently approximately 12,000 ground source heat and cooling systems in the UK and that this figure could increase to more than 300,000 systems by 2020. The guide says that the technology also offers incentives for commercial developers and could make a significant contribution to the UK’s commitment to source 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
A ground source heating and cooling system in the Environment Agency’s new national office, Horizon House, provides 18% of the building’s energy needs and reduces annual energy bills by £30,000.
Other organisations leading the way in installing ground source heating and cooling systems include IKEA, at their city centre store in Coventry; Sainsbury’s at their Crayford store in Greater London; and the One New Change shopping centre in London, which has Europe’s largest heat pump.
The Environment Agency regulates the installation of open loop ground source heating and cooling systems, which take water from underground sources or rivers and discharge it back to the environment. Closed loop systems, which consist of a closed piping system, do not require a permit, but clear guidance must be followed to minimise the risks of groundwater pollution. The Environment Agency has worked closely with the Ground Source Heat Pump Association to ensure that both organisations are providing consistent information to the industry.