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Non-recyclable waste used to heat Cardiff’s buildings

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By Silvia Martelli

On April 19, Cardiff’s council cabinet met to discuss a £26.2 million scheme to heat the city’s public and commercial buildings using energy from burning non-recyclable waste. Analysis show that the scheme will save 5,600 tonnes of carbon each year, and around 5% on energy costs for the buildings.

Buildings connected to the network will no longer need to use gas for heating, relying instead on the energy generated at the Trident Park Energy Recovery Facility and transported across the city through a network of underground pipes. Low pressure steam generated from the waste plant will be used to heat water, which will then circulate across Cardiff at around 90C (almost at a boiling point). Heat exchangers will be installed in customer buildings to ensure physical separation of building heat fluids and those in the network.

Councillor Michael, Cardiff Cabinet Member for Clean Streets and the Environment, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Cardiff to develop new low-carbon, energy infrastructure, fuelled by existing assets and facilities in the city.”

The network will begin in Cardiff Bay, then cross the main railway line, skirt the southern edge of the city centre and end in the western parts of Newport Road. It will be built in two phases: in phase one, heat pipes will be laid to connect public buildings south of the railway line, and a centre of back up gas boilers will be built for when the incinerator is undergoing maintenance; in phase two, buildings north and east of the railway will be connected too.

The first phase will have a capital cost of £14.4 million. The Council’s Cabinet has been asked to allocate £4m towards the scheme – the rest of the funding will be external and most likely achieved with the cooperation of both Central and Welsh Government. The Central Government may indeed award grant funds available from its Heat investment Programme (HNIP), which currently amounts to £320 million, whilst the Welsh Government may offer “direct financial investment either in the form of an Equity stake or loan on bespoke and favourable terms”, as outlined in the 19th April Cabinet Meeting Report. To save loan from the Council, borrowing through an invest will also be possible.

Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said: “Decarbonising heat is a significant challenge in delivering a low carbon economy for Wales. We are supporting a range of initiatives and have provided significant assistance to Cardiff Council to develop the project to this stage. We will continue to work in partnership with Cardiff Council with the ambition of making the project a reality”.

Trident Park ERF already has contracts to burn non-recyclable waste from nine local authorities in South East Wales. With the Welsh Government setting out their aim for all the public sector to be carbon neutral by 2030, it is hoped that other cities will quickly adopt Cardiff’s sustainable pioneer project, giving waste a purpose and valuing it as a precious resource.

A Full Business Case for the project will be outlined in the next 18-24 months, before final authority will be seeked to begin the construction works.

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