Connecting SMEs for a green economy

Heat Pump solutions from Natural Heat (NI)'s picture

Natural Heat (NI) Limited is a new Northern Ireland based SME who, in partnership with the world leading STAR Refrigeration and Drilling and Pumping Supplies of Newtownards (DPS), are supplying ground breaking renewable energy heat pump systems for homes, businesses, and industries across Ireland.

What are heat pumps?
A heat pump extracts heat from any water source (air) or industrial waste system, such as air conditioning or large scale cooling processes. The extracted waste heat is captured, compressed, boosted and recycled to provide hot water up to 90 °C. This technology is becoming increasingly popular since the heat delivered far exceeds the energy consumed in extraction, meaning that homes and businesses can very effectively recycle their waste heat into their own or neighbouring buildings.

Applying the solution
Wide deployment of heat pump systems could revolutionise the way we heat and cool factories, hospitals, office buildings and provide affordable renewable and sustainable district heating to communities, social housing projects and new developments. For example, in January 2010 Star Refrigeration successfully completed installation of the world’s largest district-wide heat pump system, providing heat for 250 businesses and community of 60,000 in Drammen Fjord near Oslo.

By working with STAR and DPS, Natural Heat are able to call on an experienced team who can deliver and implement the entire heat pump package:

  • STAR - Design, manufacture, supply, maintain and service the bespoke heat pumps.
  • DPS - Assist with design, but also project manage, install and subsequently maintain and service all other aspects of the solution (water abstraction, pumping  from source, to and from the heat-pump including all connections and installation work to and from the clients facilities).
  • Natural Heat – Negotiate contracts (legal, financial environmental), facilitate all parties and (in conjunction with DPS) gather all required data to assessing a client's heat demand and site specific heat pump solution.

Once a customer's heat demand and appropriate heat pump solution has been identified, Natural Heat take over management of the installation. From here, the client has two options:

  1. They can either purchase the heat pump 'kit' outright and Natural Heat subsequently provide all maintenance and support.
  2. Or, Natural Heat sell them an entire package - with no capital outlay - including all ongoing maintenance and servicing in return for an agreed long term heat supply purchase agreement.

Aside from this, the only element the customer has to consider (although Natural Heat can advise) is the maintenance of their existing heating/cooling systems and their internal thermal network.

Green Credentials
Heating makes up 50% of Northern Irish fuel costs, and 70% of a heat pump's output is harvested waste heat. The system uses no synthetic greenhouse gases (HFCs) and operates using ammonia, a naturally occurring refrigerant that includes no carbon and has no ozone depletion potential. Heat pumps require no additional import of fossil or biomass fuels and have zero local emissions, since there is no combustion.

Business Model
Natural Heat has a straight forward, yet innovative business model: Sell heat and provide clients with long term security of supply combined with hassle and maintenance free operation, which is also green and environmentally friendly. As a rough, guide any customer or group with heating costs of approximately £190k per annum can benefit from a sustainable, efficient, low carbon, and low cost heat pump.

The heat pump equipment is built to last at least 20-25 years, yet enjoys a realistic pay back periods of only 6-8 years. New legislation and the potential for green tariff support could lower costs even further. Natural Heat aims to create a ‘Social/Community Investment Company’ as a subsidiary within the Natural Heat Group, all with the aim of developing district heating networks to operate alongside social housing and local administrative organisations in combatting "fuel poverty”.


Further details

How was the green solution financed?: 
Would you characterize the green solution as: 
High capital intensive investment (i.e. above €30,000)
Operating and maintenance costs description: 
Low relative to comparable energy sources.
Cost savings description: 
Varies, but the pay back period for a system with a 25-year life around 6-8 years.
Operating and maintenance costs: 
Yes, low O&M costs
Technical and capacity requirements?: 

Natural Heat systems can compete and provide both an alternative or complementary solution to both oil and gas heating. In Northern Ireland the current Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is not as high as the rest of the UK and it is our intention to try and bring the incentive more in line with the rest of GB/UK.
Another challenge is that – unlike mainland Europe – there is not yet an established heat distribution network available, and therefore our system can only be implemented by a large heat user or “anchor” facility. However as energy costs continue to increase and our carbon targets not met – the supporting infrastructure for sustainable solutions like heat pumps will follow.