A MULTI-MILLION-POUND renewable energy venture between a Scottish council and a private energy firm is aiming to connect homes to a giant heat network in the upcoming months.

Midlothian Council and Vattenfall Heat UK, a renewable energy firm, are aiming to have the first homes at the new Shawfair development ready to be powered by a national heat network by October.

The £30 million joint development is funded equally between Midlothian Council and the UK energy firm with £7.3m funding provided by the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Programme.

The initial phase of the network aims to supply 3000 homes in Shawfair, located south of Edinburgh, and a further 1000 homes at Newton and Wellington Farms using waste heat from FCC Environment’s Millerhill Recycling and Energy Recovery Centre.

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The recycling plant will burn tonnes of waste which would normally go to landfills to create hot water which will then be transferred to homes in the towns via a giant heating network.

Homes connected to the heating network will have a heat interface unit installed instead of a boiler, which acts as a heat exchanger and will provide domestic hot water and central heating.

Paul Steen (below), head of business development at Vattenfall Heat UK, has said that owners of the new homes in Shawfair and at Newton and Wellington Farms won’t notice the difference between switching from gas boilers to the new low-carbon-producing alternative.

The National:

He said: “The change to them is minimal.

“They still have a white box on the wall and that white box makes heat, and they’ve got a meter, they’ve got a thermostat, and their hot water comes out the shower and their radiators get hot.

“The only difference is that they don’t have a gas meter and they don’t have a gas supply anymore, they have a hot water supply instead.

“There is next to no difference to the consumer.

“The one big benefit to them is we own the heating interface unit, so if anything does go wrong, we will replace it so they will never have to replace their gas boiler ever again.”

Steen also confirmed that all maintenance would be carried out by Vattenfall Heat UK and it is not the responsibility of the owners of the homes.

Work commenced at the Shawfair site back in 2022 and commissioned construction is still ongoing.

The main spine of the heat pump network has been installed and construction of the energy centre has been completed.

The National: Heat pipes for the heating network being laid in Midlothian 

Vattenfall Heat UK aims to have some of the first homes at the new town's development connected to the heat network by October this year with plans to have the rest of the homes connected by early 2025.

The first homes connected to the heat network will be connected to a temporary boiler.

Then they will be connected to the energy centre once it is fully connected to the recycling waste plant which the energy firm says should be done by mid 2025.

The energy centre has the capacity to generate 20 megawatts of energy by contracting heat from the recycling waste plant.

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There are also plans to expand the centre to include large-scale storage by harnessing former mining site holes to help store hot water produced over the summer for later in the year when there will be more demand.

A £120m business plan for further development has also been approved by the business adventure of Midlothian Council and Vattenfall Heat UK for further expansion of the heating network.

The expansion aims to include The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh so they can decommission their gas boilers and switch to a low-carbon heat source.

Vattenfall has also been working closely with Edinburgh City Council as they plan to continue their development over the council boundary lines to the BioQuarter including the Queen Margret University.

They are also looking at ways in which they can connect the recycling plant with housing that is owned by Edinburgh Council and Registered Social Landlords (RSL) in the Greendykes and Craigmillar area.

Steen added: “It has been a very long time coming through the process, but there are now a number of networks throughout Scotland - including this one at Midlothian - that are examples of how heat networks work.

“But this one is particularly interesting as it is the first one which is being delivered as a joint venture between the local authorities and the private sector.

“It is important as it is an exemplar for other places because other local authorities now have the opportunity to learn from this scheme and replicate the benefits.”