AN UNDERGROUND low-carbon heat network for Solihull town centre has moved a step closer after testing began.
To assess the technology, the council is drilling a borehole in Tudor Grange Park using a 10-metre rig.
The temporary installation is part of the first stage of developing the network, council chiefs say.
The borehole will test groundwater flows in the aquifer beneath the park.
Chiefs say it will determine the available heat supply and costs associated with constructing the proposed system.
If built, the energy generating water source would distribute heat via insulated pipes and wires to town centre buildings.
Council chiefs say the project can deliver significant carbon savings and make the town centre more attractive for future investment.
Potential carbon savings for the network are estimated to be over 64,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 25 years, council officers predict.
Cabinet member for the environment and housing Councillor Tony Dicicco said: “As a council we are committed to working towards a low carbon future.
“Obviously we are still in the very early stages of the project and the first step will be establishing whether we have sufficient ground source energy at this location.
“The overall aim is to provide cheaper, more sustainable energy, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions.”
The testing process is expected to take no longer than seven weeks and there will be minimal disruption to parking at Tudor Grange Leisure Centre, council chiefs say.
The network would initially provide energy to the Tudor Grange Leisure Centre, town centre businesses, the Council House and schools in the area including Solihull College.
The second stage of the plan would first focus on connecting public sector buildings and link with businesses on Homer Road.
It would then be opened up to additional private sector companies if the project proved to be financially viable.
And finally it would power the new developments in the Town Centre Masterplan.
All of the funding for the study and investigations, including the test borehole, has come from the government’s Heat Network delivery unit (HNDU) and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The council was awarded a grant of over £250,000 from the HNDU in August but will need to raise a total of over £600,000 to complete the plans if they are judged to be viable.
Chair of Energy Capital in the West Midlands Matthew Rhodes said: “This innovative clean energy project is exactly the kind of investment we want to see in support of our growth ambitions, creating opportunities for skilled local jobs, safe and secure local energy supplies, and supporting efforts to tackle climate change.”
For more information go to: www.solihull.gov.uk, clicking on the Stay Connected button on the home page and selecting heat networks.