£1.8m river powered pump to heat city homes

A general view of the River Wensum near to St Edmunds Wharf in Norwich.

The River Wensum is set to be harnessed to heat city homes - Credit: Peter Walsh, Archant Norfolk

Councillors have decided plans to heat homes using the River Wensum are more than just hot air after giving the contractor the green light.

The £1.8m water-powered heat pump will use the river Wensum to provide heat and hot water for 85 homes on Barnards Yard, near Duke Street in Norwich.

On Wednesday evening, Gail Harris, member for social housing, told her cabinet colleagues she was delighted to bring the plan forward.

Barnard's Yard, Norwich. Pic: Dan Grimmer

Barnard's Yard, Norwich. Pic: Dan Grimmer - Credit: Dan Grimmer

“To get to this stage has involved a huge amount of work from officers and shows this administration is prepared to take bold decisions," she said.

“We are not aware of another wastewater source heat pump system being used in Norfolk and within the country there are only about half a dozen.” 


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A current system, which uses natural gas and emits carbon will be removed from the site. 

The pump itself will be powered by renewable electricity and no river water will be mixed with water destined for people's homes. 

Gail Harris, Labour candidate for Catton Grove in Norwich City Council elections 2016. Pic: Submiite

Labour's Gail Harris - Credit: Submitted

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The scheme is expected to require an extensive amount of work but will cost less than the current system, the meeting was told. 

Green Party city council leader Sandra Bogelein welcomed the plans, saying she was delighted it was in her Mancroft ward, but argued the council’s communication on the plans had been poor. 

“People are worried how much they will be charged,” she said. 

“I’m sure we can address that very quickly once we start talking to them.” 

Sandra Bogelein, Green Party group leader and city councillor for Mancroft ward. Pic: Green Party.

Sandra Bogelein, Green Party group leader and city councillor for Mancroft ward. Pic: Green Party. - Credit: Green Party

The city council leader, Alan Waters, said he hoped the residents would be able to read the council's report.

The system is expected to save 270 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere a year, the same as absorbed by 12,854 fully grown trees.

Ms Harris promised a liaison officer would be on the site to work with residents during the work. 

The cabinet awarded the contract, valued at £1,829,595.02, to J Tomlinson Ltd, in a unanimous vote. 

Ms Harris said the company has an excellent reputation, having gained sustainability awards for projects like this. 

The contract is due to be completed by March 31, 2022. 

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