Plans have been announced for London’s Tate Modern to start reducing its business energy use by installing a new system which will save energy by recycling heat that would otherwise be wasted.

The iconic art gallery, visited by over 5 million people a year, will use the innovative new system to harness energy from the heat generated from lighting its vast rooms and galleries. Its heating and hot water needs will be supplemented by the waste heat, which will be recovered from a nearby electricity substation.

The £1m award-winning initiative is led by UK Power Networks working in partnership with Tate Modern, engineering group Arup and Wilson Transformer Company. It’s expected to provide around 7,000MWh of heat to Tate Modern’s new building. The project was a huge investment for everyone involved with over 1,300 staff and contractors employed to make it a reality.

It’s estimated that the heat, which is a by-product from UK Power Networks £60 million refurbished electricity substation, Bankside, will reduce the Tate Modern’s commercial energy  costs and save up to 1,400 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

Sadly this type of energy saving isn’t suitable for every business. The substation adjoins Tate Modern on London’s South Bank and it’s this close proximity that enables the heat recovery system to work.

But this isn’t a one-off project either. Paul Dyer, UK Power Networks’ Transformer Specialist, explains: “In all the major cities in the world there will be lots of opportunities to install heat recovery. It can only work where the substation is in close proximity to the building using the heat and urban areas have the potential to work best.”

The substation receives electricity from the grid at 132,000 volts and pieces of equipment called transformers convert it to 20,000 volts and 11,000 volts for distribution throughout London by underground cables. Heat loss from the transformers would usually naturally dissipate into the atmosphere and be lost, but this ground-breaking project uses pipes to capture and recycle this heat.

This is the first project of its kind in the UK and it’s getting an enthusiastic welcome, already picking up the ‘Infrastructure’ award at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors London award ceremony in May this year. It also won a ‘Re-engineering London’ award in March at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) London Awards.

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