Manchester launches Civic Quarter Heat Network with Tower of Light

Those walking by Manchester Central at night will now have their path illuminated by a 40-metre-tall tower, which lights up every night using power generated from the city’s new low-carbon heat network.

CQHN has been years in the making and will deliver both heat and power to many buildings in central Manchester.

Walker Sime managed the project, which uses natural gas to produce electricity. The network then captures the heat by-product of that production and uses it to heat water. That water is sent to both heat buildings in the network.

“It’s a far more efficient use of energy,” said Benjamin Smith, senior project manager with Walker Sime. “It dramatically reduces the carbon that the buildings used to emit from their outdated plant.

“What’s more, the network is designed to double in capacity, enabling many more buildings (new and existing) to join the network, making it even more efficient,” Smith continued. “It also presents space-saving opportunities for new developments as there’s no longer a need to accommodate flues and large boiler rooms.”

So far, the CQHN is connected to the Town Hall Extension and Central Library, Bridgewater Hall, Heron House, Manchester Central Convention Centre, and Manchester Art Gallery. The buildings are connected to the energy centre, which sits beneath the railway arches near Manchester Central, by 2km of underground pipes.

The energy centre was built by Vital Energi, which will also operate and maintain the network for the next 30 years.

Manchester City Council said that it hopes to transition the heat network from being fuelled by natural gas towards a more sustainable option, such as biomethane and hydrogen, in the future.

Cllr Tracey Rawlins, executive member for environment for Manchester City Council, called the heat network a “trailblazing system”, adding that it “demonstrates Manchester’s determination to cut our carbon emissions”.

“As a council, we are committed to playing our full part in limiting the impacts of climate change as the city strives to become zero carbon by 2038 – at least 12 years ahead of the national target,” she said.

“It’s a complex challenge but ambitious projects such as this network show that we are taking action to rise to it,” Rawlins continued. “As well as looking beautiful, we hope that the Tower of Light will be a beacon for this kind of work.”

Law firm Browne Jacobson advised Manchester City Council on setting up CQHN.

“We are delighted to have been involved in this ambitious and significant project for Manchester City Council,” said Browne Jacobson legal director Alex Kynoch.

“The council are passionate and serious about hitting their net zero goals in carbon, waste and climate resilience by 2038 and this impressive energy infrastructure will be imperative in helping them to achieve that and sets the scene for more local authorities and UK cities to follow suit.”

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