14 May 2011, 19:05 BST
A group of experts are to begin a study into the feasibility of capturing and using waste heat from power stations for warming homes and offices.
The Energy Technology Institute (ETI) confirmed it would carry out the six month £140,000 waste heat storage project today. It will be led by consultants Buro Happold with input from Cambridge University, the British Geological Survey and IF Technology Group.
The project, which was first unveiled in January by the ETI, will examine the feasibility of capturing and using large quantities of waste heat from power stations and industrial processes and storing it in geological formations underground for use later in homes and offices for heat and hot water.
James Dickinson, project leader at Buro Happold, described the study as potentially "ground-breaking" because it could lead to the replacement of direct gas-fired heating in the UK.
"Using waste from power stations for new or existing district heating systems and using the ground as a seasonal heat store would be a paradigm shift in low grade heat provision in the UK," he said.
One of the main obstacles for making use of waste heat is that it is not available at the same time and place as the demand for it. However, it is technically possible to store very large quantities of heat energy below ground in geological structures such as saline aquifers or disused mines.
?Many of the potential heat sources and storage areas are close to centres of population and could be used to support large-scale district heating schemes, but there are currently many uncertainties around the effectiveness, environmental impact and ultimate capacity of such systems in the UK,? added Clarke, ETI Chief Executive.
The study will investigate the cost effectiveness and practicalities of storing large quantities of heat for long periods to meet a significant proportion of the UK?s winter demand; evaluate the practical limits for this type of storage; and investigate where in the country it could be most effectively used.
The project will be completed next summer, after which the ETI will evaluate the practicality of proceeding to a large-scale demonstration of this technology in a real-world application.
Source: Green Energy UK