London - Homes Heated by the Tube

Heat from a Northern Line vent will be piped to homes across Islington, saving consumers money and 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.


The project was announced by Islington council and is part of an ongoing initiative to harness secondary heat in the city being pursued by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. In July a report was released on the topic, explaining how the mayoral office would be looking into ways the city can harness and make use of "waste heat arising as a byproduct of industrial and commercial activities" and "the heat that exists naturally within the environment (air, ground, water)". 


The Islington project claims to be the first of its kind in Europe and will deliver cheaper heating to 500 homes in the borough. The heat will be captured from a London Underground vent from a Northern Line station, as well as from an electrical substation owned by UK Power Networks, and facilitated by Islington's Bunhill Heat and Power heat network, which already uses wasted heat to provide cheaper, greener energy for 700 homes in the borough.


"We are carrying out a feasibility project exploring the potential to capture waste heat from one of our high voltage electricity substations and use it to warm local homes for the first time," said UK Power Networks head of future networks Martin Wilcox in a statement. "If it is successful there could be potential to replicate this and increase access to low carbon, low cost energy in other parts of the capital because we have electricity substations dotted throughout London which keep the lights on for millions of homes and businesses."


So far though, the project is starting off small with the £2.7m funding provided by Islington Council and the £1m from the European Union -- the concept came about because of a four-year EU project called Celsius that London has signed up to. Celsius is all about developing and implementing "best practice solutions in the area of smart district heating and cooling by taking a holistic approach to overcome technical, social, political, administrative, legal and economic barriers" and will help in the Mayor's promises to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent and produce 25 percent of London's energy from local sources both by 2025.


"By supporting locally sourced energy and heat networks which can reduce bills and lower carbon emissions, we can not only save money but also drive innovation, jobs and growth in this burgeoning sector," mayoral senior advisor on environment and energy Matthew Pencharz explained in a statement, with local councillor Richard Watts adding "with energy prices going up and up, it's vital we do what we can to cut bills". 


Although it's the first project of its kind in Europe, there has been an increasing amount of interest in the space in recent years. In 2010 social housing owner Paris Habitat announced it would be using heat from the subway to heat a public housing project. The 17-flat property on rue Beaubourg is conveniently connected to a metro station via a staircase. Heat generated by passengers and the trains themselves keep corridors below ground at toasty temperatures of up to 20C, and it's this heat that will be transferred to heat exchangers and then delivered through pipes in the adjacent building.


Meanwhile, in the UK a collaboration was announced in October between Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and the Glasgow Caledonian University that will hopefully see a system developed for converting ingress water from the city's subway into heat for homes by 2015. 


In the height of summer, London Underground records temperatures of more than 30C in its train carriages. Any new methods for swiftly filtering that heat off and away would be much appreciated.