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Waste Not
Heat Generated by London Underground Trains Will Now Heat Homes Instead of Commuters

In the spirit of the just-wrapped SB London conference, the city has announced just the kind of ingenious, waste-to-resource solution that we love: Excess heat generated by London Underground trains will now be captured and used to help warm homes and cut energy bills in the Islington district.

The project — the first of its kind in Europe — is a partnership between Islington Council, London Mayor Boris Johnson, UK Power Networks and Transport for London.

As anyone who has ever ridden it knows, the Tube generates large amounts of heat; its capture and utilization through a nearby vent off the Northern Line will not only warm local homes, it could very well make the ride more comfortable for the millions of daily commuters.

The Islington Council says the scheme will be run through its innovative Bunhill Heat and Power network, which already supplies more than 700 homes in Islington with more sustainable heating and is set to reduce the costs of heating for local people. Under the new project the network will be expanded to capture and utilize two local sources of waste heat, one from a London Underground ventilation shaft and the other from a sub-station owned and operated by UK Power Networks. The expansion will also see at least a further 500 homes connected to Islington's heat network.

Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: "The expanded Bunhill Heat Network will cut energy bills for hundreds more local people. With energy prices going up and up, it's vital we do what we can to cut bills. It's all part of the Council's work to help people manage the rising cost of living. Last winter was one of the coldest for decades and record energy prices meant many families on fixed incomes spent it in misery, unsure whether to heat or eat."

Rakhia Ismail, Islington Council's executive member for sustainability, said: "Recycling heat from London Underground and the electrical network are exciting new ideas and a boost to our work to tackle fuel poverty and make Islington a fairer place. This cheaper energy scheme is greener too — local communities will see CO2 emissions drop by around over 500 tonnes each year."

The Council says Mayor Johnson is encouraging more locally produced heat and power from smaller generators such as Bunhill and pioneering further projects that use existing sources of waste heat in the city.

Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor of London’s Senior Advisor on Environment and Energy, said: "We need to do everything possible to create a more secure, cost-effective and sustainable heat and power supply for London. By supporting locally sourced energy and heat networks which can reduce bills and lower carbon emissions, we can not only save money but also drive innovation, jobs and growth in this burgeoning sector."

The project is part of the larger European Union co-funded CELSIUS project, a partnership of five EU cities that aims to demonstrate how the efficiency and performance of district heating systems can be improved by focusing on the opportunity that they offer for capturing and utilizing sources of waste heat that are generated within cities.

Mayor Johnson is aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent and produce 25 percent of London’s energy from local sources both by 2025.

Happily, new ways for cities to turn all kinds of waste into energy are popping up all over the world:

  • Also in the UK, SBIOL finalist O2E Technologies has developed a fully customizable waste-to-energy conversion system with which municipalities can use their existing infrastructure and O2E’s module to convert landfill waste into viable new products, such as plastic into fuel or food waste into compost.
  • Stateside, Waste Management recently announced it is building a facility that will create pipeline-ready natural gas from its Milam Landfill in Fairmont City, Ill. The processed renewable natural gas will be injected into the pipelines of utility provider Ameren Illinois for use in fueling truck fleets and other equipment that run on compressed natural gas (CNG). WM says it expects it to begin delivering gas to the pipelines in late summer 2014.
  • And just last week, A Dutch wastewater treatment facility and paper mill began testing out a new sewage recycling system that reduces sludge formation by half, cuts operational costs by 30 percent, significantly increases treatment capacity and yields biosolid pellets that can be used for paper, construction, plastic and energy applications. If the pilot proves successful, the organizations say they hope to expand throughout the Netherlands.
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