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Talking Point

Matt Love says ground source heat pumps are ideal for businesses to take advantage of the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which comes on stream next year, will give a welcome and important boost for the ground source industry and its clients as well as for sustainability in general.

It is the first scheme of its kind to make payments to those generating heat from renewable sources.

The government expects the RHI to help drive a dramatic increase in uptake of renewable heating technologies, which is crucial if the UK is to achieve its renewable energy targets, reduce carbon and improve the security of energy supplies.

From Phase 1, the RHI will offer a set tariff per kWh of renewable heat energy generated and used by qualifying commercial renewable heating systems.

These payments, combined with a sustainably designed and well-installed solution, can halve payback periods at a time when the cost of traditional energy is increasing and demand is soaring.

In a consultation period the Department of Energy & Climate Change identified ground source heat pump (GSHP) and geothermal installations as the most viable inner city renewable heating solutions, because they do not require fuel to be transported after installation.

“Ground source installations have sometimes been viewed as being extremely expensive and disruptive to programme”

Closed loop GSHP installations are also not typically subject to planning constraints as they are not detrimental to the building’s fabric.

Ground source heating and cooling systems are well suited to the needs of commercial and residential buildings, as they represent a controllable solution which allows the amount of renewable heating produced to be accurately modelled.

Other renewable technologies depend on weather-based sources, which can be unreliable, subject to large seasonal fluctuations and highly influenced, if not rendered completely obsolete, by future developments next to sites, particularly within city centres with numerous high-rise structures.

Ground source installations have sometimes been viewed as being extremely expensive and disruptive to programme.

But a newer breed of installer is today better placed to understand the needs of the construction industry and better able to integrate solutions into reinforced concrete substructure elements.

Within the next few weeks the Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA) is due to finalise a set of standards to further improve the quality of all GSHP installations.

A GSHP installation of any description can be simply interfaced within a more traditional heating or cooling system, to provide anything from a contribution of a few percent of the peak (kW) and base (kWh) loads or enough to serve the full building requirements.

“When considering an installation of this type it is vital to look to a specialist contractor”

The best use of a GSHP system is for heating and cooling (where possible) to balance the yearly load profile and predominantly to service the base load requirements.

here are potentially high capital expenditure costs to increase peak capacity in heating or cooling and the upper 10 to 15% is often more economically served in traditional ways, such as gas-fired boilers for heating, or chillers for cooling.

This does not affect the subsidy payments, which are tied to the quantity of energy provided by a GSHP installation to meet a typical renewable target of 10-20% and not the peak heating or cooling capacity of the installation.

Inserting geothermal pipework into the substructure foundation piles, retaining walls and slab structures is an innovative integrated solution which can be installed with minimal disruption to programme.

When considering an installation of this type it is vital to look to a specialist contractor.

Early involvement is essential, as ground source energy pile installations are a highly specialised solution.

  • Matt Love is managing director of GECCO2, an MCS-accredited GSHP installer, and member of the GSHPA and IGSHPA.

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