A second significant stage of a multi-million pound project to heat Stoke-on-Trent businesses and homes with cleaner, greener energy has started, and will give the chance for engineers of the future to learn the latest industry skills.
Civic and business leaders, and students from Stoke on Trent College’s Urban Heat Academy have broken the ground on the next stage of the city’s district heat network. Around 1.4km of pipes will be laid under College Road in Shelton. The pipes will form part of a developing city-wide network that will pump hot water to businesses and later on houses, providing renewable heat energy.
The district heat network is led by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and the latest £1.9m phase follows on from pipes being laid under Leek Road in Stoke earlier this year. Sustainable energy specialist Vital Energi is carrying out this phase of the works which will take 30 weeks to complete.
Councillor Carl Edwards, cabinet member for the environment, helped to break the ground on the project. He said: “This network is all about providing sustainable, cleaner and greener energy to heat our city for generations to come. We’re a forward-looking city, and we are committed to doing all we can to protect and improve our environment. It’s a pioneering initiative – nowhere else in the country is developing a heat network with the ambition and scope that we are under way with. Careful mapping of our city’s geology has shown us that there is geothermal energy under Stoke-on-Trent, and the deep seam coal mining of the past has helped us to identify its source. It is serendipitous that our energy source of the past could help us in powering our city for the future. Our plans for the network are that it will eventually go on to be powered by these hot underground rocks. We’re thrilled to be launching this latest phase of works. It is the next stage of a total of 18km of pipes that will be installed over the next four years stretching across the city from Leek Road to Festival Park. As the scheme develops, we’ll be talking to businesses and the households to explain how they can be part of the network.”
The latest phase of the network will run from the Station Road roundabout on College Road to Stoke on Trent College’s Cauldon campus. The college’s Urban Heat Academy will work with contractors and employers involved in the design, installation, management and maintenance of the District Heat Network to provide apprenticeships and work-related training.
Skills needs already identified include groundworks, site management and surveying. The academy has also identified training on fusion welding, using new automated ultrasonic testing methods, to ensure the pipe work is installed to the highest standards. As part of this work, college staff have travelled to Denmark to work with specialist pre-insulated pipe suppliers.
Ryan Johnson, Campus Director at Stoke on Trent College, said: “Over recent months we have seen just how important an issue climate change is, to young people here in the UK and across the world. It is important that local people realise that Stoke-on-Trent is leading the way in developing greener energy systems and that, right on their doorstep, there are opportunities to get involved in this important work. As the UK focuses on renewable energy, projects like the District Heat Networks will create new jobs and an opportunity for young people to skill up in new areas of construction.”
Vital Energi will be employing a local apprentice, from the college’s Urban Heat Academy, who will be working on the project via day release for the duration of the contract works.
Ashley Walsh, Vital Energi’s Operations Director (Infrastructure), said: “Projects like this can offer fantastic opportunities to deliver community benefits such as employment and training to local people and we are delighted to be working on such a visionary scheme. This project has, not only the potential to expand and become a major heat network, but also to become one of the first successful geothermal schemes in the UK, making it a truly important contribution to the UK’s energy infrastructure.”
The district heat network is a multi-million pound programme that has attracted funding from central government and support from the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Alun Rogers, acting chair of the LEP, said: “The district heat network demonstrates that Stoke-on-Trent is a city of innovation and will provide sustainable energy for communities and businesses. A key part of this project is involving engineers of the future – developing their skills in what is an increasingly important sector. The district heat network is one of our flagship projects. We are a pioneering area in terms of green energy development – improving our environment and bringing wider economic benefits.”
There will continue to be traffic management in place in College Road until the works are completed. Motorists will be able to continue to travel north on the road, from the direction of the train station towards the city centre, with south-bound traffic taking a short diversion on to Avenue Road and City Road. Motorists and businesses are thanked for their patience and co-operation while the works take place.