River Tyne could be used to heat new homes on key Newcastle development site

The Quayside West site in Newcastle which has been bought by Homes England
The Quayside West site in Newcastle which has been bought by Homes England -Credit:Hi-Track Aerial Photography

The River Tyne could be utilised to provide heat to a major Newcastle development. City leaders are exploring plans that would see water from the river used to heat new homes and businesses earmarked for the Forth Yards site.

Councillors were told on Thursday how the Tyne could play a critical role in delivering a low-carbon district heating network to an area seen as critical to Newcastle’s future growth.

The proposals could see water taken from the Tyne and heat energy extracted from it, before the water is then returned to the river, to deliver heating and hot water to nearby buildings. Such a scheme has already been installed at the Viking Energy Network in Jarrow, which was hailed last year as a “groundbreaking” venture that could cut carbon emissions by over 1,000 tonnes every year, while a similar project in Gateshead uses the heat from water pumped up from flooded coal seams to deliver hot water to 350 council houses, offices, Gateshead College and the Baltic art centre.

It was recently announced that Homes England had struck a deal to build 1,100 homes on the Quayside West site next to the Utilita Arena, the largest land parcel in the wider Forth Yards development, after its previous developers went into administration. And Newcastle City Council’s climate change committee was told this week that a river-source heat supply for the area is already being considered.

Council energy specialist Adam Karimian warned that such schemes take a “long time” to develop, but he hoped that the designs could be ready by the end of 2025. He said that while a heat network using the Tyne would be expensive to install, it could prove more cost-effective in the long-run than using air source heat pumps.

The Forth Yards area to the west of the city centre behind Central Station is just one of several locations across Newcastle identified as areas for district heat networks to be installed, where buildings are connected up to the same heat source. Others include the area around the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Newcastle University.

Mr Karimian said: “On Forth Yards the river is an option. But it may be that it is not the right option, it may be that the air source is more credible. We assess everything on the economics and the cost over the lifetime of the scheme.”

He added: “Economically, the closer it is [to the river] the better, but it is not always possible. But the river is close enough to Forth Yards to hopefully make it a viable option.”

Mr Karimian said the council would have to comply with “strict limits” set by the Environment Agency if the Tyne was used as a heat source, meaning that only three degrees of heat could be taken out of the water before it is pumped back into the river. Using water pumped up from old mineworks is another option being looked at for parts of the city further away from the riverside.

He added: “The Coal Authority loves Newcastle, they keep emailing me about it. The technology has been proven across the river – it is the same seams and the same workings [here]. [But] each project is evaluated separately.

“Rivers won’t work for some projects in the north [of Newcastle] but it might for a project nearby. Every option is looked at and judged on its own merits.”