Swaffham Prior, a village in East Cambridgeshire, is leading the way in renewable energy creation and installing  a network of ‘district heating’, usually used in new developments with low carbon emissions with high energy performance ratings.  Even though this village with a high street lined with Grade II listed properties is set to change the perception, delivering a rural heat network powered entirely by renewable technology.

The village has many house types, having undergone various expansion schemes over the years, though the latest phase, delivered five years ago by Swaffham Prior Community Land Trust includes eight homes with air heat pumps.

Following two years of resident consultation, a heat network designed to work on all homes is weeks away from construction.

The renewable energy centre will be housed outside the conservation area of the village in an agricultural barn and will contain a series of air source and ground source heat pumps connected to 130 boreholes.

In the winter, ground source heat pumps will supply 1.5 MW, whilst in the summer air source heat pumps will be used for hot water, with the two sources combined guaranteeing temperature outputs in the heating systems of 72oC, even at freezing temperatures, similar to a gas boiler.

This means that homes will be able to plug their existing heating systems into the new system, a seven-kilometre network running through the village.

The system does require retrofitting the older properties to help them be more efficient, particularly the 47 listed properties in the village, which would, in turn, lead to planning consequences, though grants such as the Green Homes Grant can help with the cost of doing it up to £10,000, as there is currently little incentive due to the relatively low oil prices.

This in turn will all help towards the UK’s target of having net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with domestic heating currently responsible for approximately 15% of the country’s carbon emissions.

A system such as the Swaffham Prior system helps level out the field to give all homes access to net-zero heating, whilst reducing heating costs by being more energy-efficient.

Image source- Swaffham Prior

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