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£350,000 contract will see solar thermal panels being used to supply heat to a district heating scheme for the first time in the UK.

Glasgow-based Star Renewable Energy has won a contract to design and build a large scale heat pump system in the new town of Cranbrook, near Exeter.

The heat pump system will be connected to a solar energy farm and, for the first time in the UK, will be source the heat from solar thermal panels.

The system will provide heat and hot water to one of the UK's largest district heating schemes, operated by energy giant E.on.

An energy revolution

Heat pumps were first spoken about in 1852 by Lord Kelvin in a lecture at Glasgow University but are only now coming to life in a commercial sense and we now have the skills to make this a modern energy revolution. I wonder what Lord Kelvin would make of it all these years later.

Dave Pearson, director, Star Renewable Energy

Working with new technology in the UK

Although already used to produce commercial scale energy in Denmark and Germany, the use of solar thermal panels has been restricted to small-scale domestic installations in the UK.

The most common solar energy schemes in the UK use photovoltaic cells convert heat from the sun into electricity while Star's solar thermal panels system will harvest solar heat from circulated through the panels.

The demonstrator project at Cranbrook - backed by a £1.3 million research grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change - will run until March 2017 when a report will recommend how the technology could be used elsewhere in the UK.

Star will install a high-temperature heat pump, drawing heat from around 2000 square metres of ground-mounted solar thermal panels.

A network of super-insulated underground pipes will deliver the harvested heat and hot water to 3500 new homes in Cranbrook and the nearby Skypark industrial estate.

Peak demand for energy in the morning will be met by Star's heat pumps boosting the water temperature to 80 degrees overnight, when electricity is cheaper. The panels will produce hot water at 55 degrees during the day.

The heat pumps will be constructed in Glasgow with the system expected to be operational by the end of the year.

Working with Scottish Enterprise

Star Renewable energy factory
Seonaid Vass and Dave Pearson at Star Renewable Energy

Seonaid Vass, director of renewables & low carbon technology energy and low carbon technologies at Scottish Enterprise, said:

"We have been supporting Star Renewable Energy and so it is particularly pleasing to have visited to see their Neatpump which will deliver community heat at 80C for half the carbon footprint of burning gas.

"It is clear that society needs more sustainable solutions for energy to deliver a better solution for global warming, cost of energy and of course local jobs."

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