GSHP connects to the world’s first in-road retrofit of ground array infrastructure 

The first resident in the Cornish village of Stithians has had their ground source heat pump (GSHP) connected to an ambient heat network that will draw energy from under the street. 

It’s thought to be a world first shared ground array being retrospectively installed in a public highway.

The pioneering project, Heat the Streets, is run by Kensa Utilities and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and represents a significant investment in the future of sustainable energy.

Each home involved in Heat the Streets will swap either carbon intensive oil or LPG fossil fuels for its own low carbon Kensa ground source heat pump that will provide 100% of the property’s heating and hot water year round. Homeowners will pay a monthly standing charge to access the heat network, much like the existing gas connection fee. 

The in-road ground source heat pump network, also known as Networked Heat Pumps, in Collins Parc, Stithians, will consist of 42 boreholes, drilled to an average depth of 106m. It allows homeowners to utilise the heat from the ground to keep their houses warm and reduce carbon emissions. The infrastructure emulates the existing gas grid and has been designed to accommodate future connections, allowing households who were not ready to change their heating system to connect at a later date.

Unlike traditional district heating, there is no need for a central plant, no heat loss around the network, and customers can still change their energy provider at will, promoting energy independence.

Heating accounts for around 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions and The Committee on Climate Change estimates 80% of the buildings that will be here in 2050 have already been built. As ground source heat pumps are electrically powered, non-combustion devices that emit no local emissions or air pollution, they will reduce the carbon output associated with heating each home by around 70%. 

Wouter Thijssen, Managing Director of Kensa Utilities, comments, “It’s fantastic to have the first heat pump up and running on this landmark project which provides a blueprint for the decarbonisation of heating in the UK. Our model replicates the gas network with a pipe in the ground, a flat rate standing charge to consumers and a little white box in the house.

“Just as Burton Upon Trent was the first UK town to convert to natural gas in 1968 – at the time a cheaper, better, cleaner fuel than towns gas – we believe Stithians is the first UK town to convert to the 21st Century equivalent: networked heat pumps. Residents will have access to a network that will provide cheaper and cleaner heat for 100 years to come”. 

Some locals have already been connected to a parallel scheme in Stithians which involves drilling a borehole into their front drive. They’re delighted with the results from their Kensa ground source heat pumps.

Caroline Bolitho, resident of Stithians who’s heat pump was switched on, comments, “As a grandma I feel that I’m doing my bit for future generations and reducing my carbon footprint by having a ground source heat pump system which is important. I have been using oil heating before this and I feel really privileged and excited to have the system up and running.” 

Kensa believes that street-by-street deployment of this infrastructure is the most efficient way for the country to reduce the carbon output associated with heating for the lowest overall system cost and that in order to make projects like Heat The Streets easily replicable across the country, effective zoning and the granting of statutory rights for heat networks are crucial.

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