The project grew out of a previous community solar panel installation at the athletics stadium. This led to conversations about further carbon-cutting measures and research to find alternatives to old gas boilers which were expensive to maintain and produced significant carbon emissions.
We commissioned a proof-of-concept survey that found a ground source heat pump was a good possibility for the site before applying to the Rural Community Energy Fund for a more significant feasibility study. After further project investigation, we launched a shell offer to raise the funding required. Despite this being in December 2020, and in the midst of a pandemic, our community invested an impressive £196K. Work started on the project in October 2021.
The geology of the site increased the complexity of the installation, with ground variations affecting our ability to drill boreholes. We engaged with the geology department from Royal Holloway, University of London to further investigate this challenge. They visited the site to take borehole samples and explore what was happening. They are also investigating the creation of geological maps which would be a huge benefit for future ground-source heat pump installations. Detailed maps would help similar projects to be planned more efficiently and effectively.
The leisure centre will purchase heat generated by the pump which will, in turn, generate a return for our members while reducing the carbon emissions produced by the building. Thames Valley Athletics Centre (TVAC) is a joint venture between the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and Slough Borough Council, run by Datchet and Eton Leisure; all of our partners on the project have been incredibly supportive of the new heating system.
As a community benefit society, we have to explore and pioneer new technologies to create a sustainable future for our members and our communities. This was MaidEnergy’s first ground source heat pump project and we have learnt a huge number of technical, legal, and practical lessons along the way. We will continue to look for new opportunities to invest and expand our community energy projects.
(35 tons CO2 eq saved in the first year, increasing annually as the grid decarbonises to 44 tons of CO2 eq.)
Partner with experts – We knew how to run community energy projects but had not done any work on heating before. We were therefore much more dependent on consultants than on past solar projects, as we had to convince others (and ourselves) that we could supply a suitable heating solution. Though this took lots of time, research, and external expertise, we were ultimately able to deploy a successful solution.
Allow added time for project administration – There was a lot of work to do in finding an acceptable legal framework for the project, and we should have started formal discussions sooner. The project overcame these hurdles as all parties could see the benefit in working together – the site replaced their failing heating system without major capital investment, we cut carbon emissions, and our members had a guaranteed income stream to support their social investment.
- Carbon emissions reduction
- Number of people invested in the project
- Educational and community impact