Sustainable Energy

Human waste could soon be used to heat new homes in London

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Key Points
  • The network could eventually be expanded to supply commercial and public buildings.
  • The idea of using organic matter or waste to provide power to buildings and other services is not new.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

New homes in London could soon be powered using excess heat recovered from sewage treatment in a project described as a "first of its kind" for England.

The collaboration between Thames Water and Kingston Council, toward the southwest of the U.K. capital, would see the heat captured and then funneled through a sealed network of pipes to the district heating system of a new housing estate in the area.

If all goes to plan, as much as 7 gigawatt hours of heat could be supplied, helping to power over 2,000 homes at the Cambridge Road Estate. 

According to an announcement from Thames Water on Friday, the network could eventually be expanded to supply commercial and public buildings in Kingston town center.

"Renewable heat from our sewer network is a fantastic resource, so it's vital we are a leading player in energy transition and unlock the full potential of 'poo power'," Sarah Bentley, the company's CEO, said in a statement. 

Feasibility studies and design work for the initiative have received funding from both the British government and Greater London Authority.

An application for more funding has now been made to authorities, with the outcome of this set to be announced in March.

The project was described as "ground-breaking" by Caroline Kerr, the leader of Kingston Council. "It's a first for England and shows we are serious about reducing carbon in the borough," she added.

The idea of using organic matter or waste to provide power to buildings and other services is not new.

Earlier this month, it was announced that a biogas facility off the south coast of England would provide electricity to a factory operated by Danish wind turbine maker Vestas.

The facility will generate energy using materials like grass and maize, which are grown on the Isle of Wight.

And back in 2014, a "Bio-Bus" powered by sewage, food waste and other commercial liquid wastes was used to transport passengers between Bristol Airport and the city of Bath, in southwest England.

Elsewhere, Reading, a large town west of London, is home to a fleet of more than 58 bio-gas buses using biomethane from cattle slurry and food waste.