Heating Swaffham Prior

The Heating Swaffham Prior project aims to end fuel poverty, remove dependence on oil, and introduce cheaper renewable heating to as many homes as possible, acting as a potential blueprint for 10,000 homes in Cambridgeshire currently reliant on oil.

Model of Swaffham Prior energy centre
Image of underground pipes
Stock image: insulated heating pipes with different diameters

Heating Swaffham Prior's story

Swaffham Prior Community Land Trust and Cambridgeshire County Council are working together to offer a green heating alternative to oil in the historic Cambridgeshire village of Swaffham Prior. The Heating Swaffham Prior project aims to end fuel poverty, remove dependence on oil, and introduce cheaper renewable heating to as many homes as possible.

Currently, around 70% of properties in the village – which isn’t connected to the gas grid – depend on oil for their heating. This is both environmentally unsustainable and expensive. By using ground source and air source heat pumps with electric boiler backup, sustainable thermal energy can be pumped into homes across Swaffham Prior, and there is already a commitment to connect half of the homes in the village to the scheme.

The project has been in development since May 2017, with planning permission received in 2020. Construction of the energy centre is almost complete, and the first homes are set to be connected to the network in June 2022. The £11.9M project is being funded with a combination of grants from Cambridgeshire County Council, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and other partners.

The heat network will use a closed-loop ground source heat pump to warm liquid which is delivered to homes and community buildings through a network of pipes. This works by taking heat directly from the earth itself – pipes filled with a mixture of water and antifreeze fluid are placed in boreholes and heated by energy from the ground. This fluid then passes through an electronic heat pump to raise the temperature of the liquid further before it is distributed via a network of pipes around the village.

It is hoped that this ground-breaking project will not only have a significant positive impact on Swaffham Prior but will act as a blueprint for 10,000 homes in Cambridgeshire that are currently reliant on oil.

Useful learnings from Heating Swaffham Prior

Engage residents from the outset – Before embarking on a project of this size, it is important to establish how many residents in the community want to connect to low-carbon heating and to identify potential connection issues – this requires intensive community engagement. The other challenge is to establish what the heat demand will be and how this data should be collected. Engagement with the community is vital and having a core group of residents involved from the local Community Land Trust with a broad skill set helped to keep this project relevant to the community and allowed the council to address issues or concerns in the village.

Heating Swaffham Prior's metrics

Aiming to have 90% of the village signed up by 2026.
Predicted to save 38,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2050.
Every home will be heated to at least 72°C when external temperatures are 0°C or below (and 62°C when external temperatures are 20°C or higher).
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