National Grid pilots SSE Energy’s heat recovery tech on transformer network

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UK utility National Grid has partnered with SSE Energy Solutions to harvest waste heat from transformers and use it for water and space heating for its residential and business customers.

The heat recovery technology developed by SSE Energy Solutions is being piloted at National Grid’s Deeside Center for Innovation, a testbed developed by the utility to test new assets and technologies off-grid.

Nathan Sanders, managing director at SSE Energy Solutions, said: “Electric power transformers generate huge amounts of heat as a by-product when electricity flows through them. At the moment, this heat is just vented directly into the atmosphere and wasted.”

With the majority of transformers located within communities, the project will convert them into community heat boilers to serve local heat demands. This will provide a cost-effective and climate-friendly heat production alternative to fossil-fuel-powered heat sources such as gas boilers.

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If deployed at a large scale, the project is expected to help the National Grid reduce heat network carbon emissions by more than 40% versus traditional gas-led systems.

With the National Grid moving towards providing its customers with 100% renewable energy, the heat recovery project will provide the utility, consumers, and the UK with a route to a net-zero heat production and distribution system.

Sanders, added: “We see heat networks as a key part of the UK’s future low carbon energy infrastructure…”

Alexander Yanushkevich, Deeside Innovation Manager of National Grid, added: “When the solution is fully developed and tested, we can use it in any of our 350 substations and provide heat to local consumers. Together with SSE, National Grid is a Principal Partner of COP26, and projects like these are a great example of how, taking a whole system approach, the UK can lead the way in helping accelerate decarbonisation.”

Sanders reiterated that SSE Energy developed the solution under efforts to improve operational efficiency, produce value for customers and reduce energy bills.

SSE is a founder member of the Heat Networks Industry Council (HNIC), established to unlock the potential of zero-carbon heat networks and provide around 20% of the UK’s heat by 2050. HNIC members are committed to creating up to 35,000 new direct jobs and investment of up to £50 billion ($68.6 billion) in the UK market, while decarbonising heat networks by 2035.