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UK docks run on geothermal

Port facilities at Southampton on the UK’s south coast are to use electrical capacity from a local geothermal installation following the completion of a dedicated underground cable that crosses around one mile (1.6 km) of the city.

The docks are now connected with the Southampton Geothermal Heating Company’s (SGHC) Energy Centre in the city’s Harbour Parade district. Previously electrical output from the system, some 23.5 GWh annually, was sold into the grid, but with the installation of the new cable, this output is now used to supply the docks where it will provide around 55% of the port’s energy needs.

Owned and operated by energy management company Utilicom Limited, the UK’s first ever geothermal and combined heat & power district heating/cooling installation is now more than 20 years old.

A geothermal well close to 2 km deep reaches water at 76°C which is then channelled through 11 km of pipes to supply tri-generation services for local residents and businesses, including shopping centres, hotels and a University. With a total output from the installation of 35-36 GWh annually, the Southampton District Energy Scheme is the largest of its type in the UK.

Conceived by Utilicom and site owners Associated British Ports (ABP), working in partnership with the City Council, the project is one of the longest privately commissioned dedicated transmission links in the country. A Power Purchase Agreement was signed by Utilicom and ABP in May 2008.

Simon Woodward, chief executive of Utilicom, said: ‘Southampton is leading by example as a true technical innovator and championing the UK’s low carbon future.’

Councillor Matt Dean, the City’s Cabinet Member for the Environment Councillor, said: ‘Decentralised generation and private wire electricity are essential elements of the Council’s ‘Energising Southampton’ Strategy. We are delighted that ABP has had the vision to take locally produced sustainable energy for its operations.’