The Barkantine district heating scheme in Tower Hamlets, London, was originally built to supply heating and hot water to 700 homes in high and low rise blocks, a leisure centre, swimming pool and a primary school.
With the existing boilers that served the scheme reaching the end of their economic life Tower Hamlets Council reviewed the options for replacement. The Council's Energy Efficiency Unit demonstrated that modernisation and extension of its community heating asset and adding CHP was one of the most effective ways to reduce environmental impact, assist Fuel poverty and provide savings for the residents.
The Council sought investment through PFI and funding from Defra as a National Pathfinder scheme in support of the Home Energy Conservation Act. A sustainable CHP district heating scheme was developed that would replace the existing plant, and address the issues of fuel poverty, affordable energy and global warming, and support urban renewal. The 25 year PFI agreement was signed in March 2000, the new heating network came on-line in November 2000 and the CHP was energised in February 2001 in a scheme that was the first of its type in London.
The scheme is an environmentally friendly way of generating electricity and heat and saves around 2500 tonnes of CO2 per year making it 30% more efficient than if the using individual central heating systems and the national grid. This efficiency also has financial benefits to the community - it costs around £1.50 a week to supply heat and hot water to the average household.
Located in an Edwardian substation building (a conserved heritage building) the Energy Centre contains a 1.4MWe combined heat and power engine and two 1.4MWth heat only boilers that distribute heat through 2.4 kilometres of new mains. The engine is designed to provide the winter heat load which maximises engine running hours to produce electricity at times when there is greatest demand. Two large hot water storage cylinders at the Energy Centre are used as a heat store enabling the CHP unit to generate electricity when there is low hot water demand, this can meet later heat and hot water needs.