Tower of Light set to start as budget balloons
Manchester’s Civic Quarter Heat Network, featuring a Tonkin Liu-designed ‘Tower of Light’, is set to get under way, although the project’s budget has nearly doubled in the last 18 months.
The heat network is designed to provide a number of key buildings within the city centre with low-carbon, efficient and reliable energy. In total, it has a total thermal capacity of around 27MW, fuelled by natural gas.
Although the project was originally set to begin this year, but according to council papers, the final work on the legal structure of the project is being carried out ahead of the council’s partner Vital Energi starting on site next year.
The project will get under way despite the budget nearly doubling since it was originally put forward. A budget of £14m was put forward by the council in 2016/17, but this has since increased to £26m, which the council said was down to “changes in design and specification”.
Council papers insisted the project was “still affordable within the spend-to-save financial model for the project” and there have been “some additional external funding” for the scheme.
The scheme is part-funded by the Government’s £320m Heat Network Investment project, with a capital grant of £2.87m secured. The project is also entitled to a grant from the European Local Energy Assistance grant to help cover external technical, legal and financial services costs.
The buildings to be supplied are Manchester Central, the Town Hall Extension, Heron House, Manchester Art Gallery, Central Library, the Midland Hotel, the Bridgewater Hall, and One St Peter’s Square. Of these, Manchester Central, the Town Hall Extension, the Bridgewater Hall, and the Midland are all due to have an electrical connection.
Central to the proposals is a ‘Tower of Light’ next to Manchester Central, which is designed to encase dispersion flues. The combined heat-and-power centre is due to be located under the Metrolink arch at the junction of Lower Mosley Street and Great Bridgewater Street.
Manchester City Council has set up a special purpose vehicle to manage the project, with Vital Energi acting under a design, build, operate, and maintain contract, which will see it responsible for the operation and maintenance of the network for the next 30 years.
There is an 18-month build programme, due to start this month or early next year, with penalties for Vital if the project is delivered late.
A lease agreement to facilitate the construction of the energy centre is currently being agreed and construction will begin once capital approval of the business case has been secured.
Turley is acting as planner for the project, and secured permission in April.
A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: “The Civic Quarter Heat Network is a long-term project which will reduce the city’s energy costs and carbon emissions, improve our air quality, create new jobs and ultimately pay for itself through its operations. The increase to the budget for this important project is in part thanks to the provision of additional grant funding from government and also to provide a buffer which will allow it to significantly expand in the future.”