Plans for a large scale solar thermal and heat pump system to supply a community energy centre in Cranbrook, to the east of Exeter in the UK, are at an advanced stage having secured funding from the UK government.

Led by E.ON, technology providers SK Solar and Star Renewable Energy and the University of Exeter, a second tranche of a research grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will help to supply one of the country’s largest district heating systems with low carbon heat directly from sunshine.

The demonstrator project will see the installation of approximately 2,000 sq m of solar thermal array on land near to the energy centre as well as a high temperature (>80°C) heat pump.

Installation work is anticipated to begin in late summer. The aim is to improve the performance of heat networks, demonstrating how the combined technologies can replace or work alongside the existing combined heat and power (CHP) district heating scheme to provide lower cost and significantly lower carbon heating and hot water.

The existing network supplies homes in the village and the nearby Skypark commercial complex. Eventually the network will connect to more than 3,500 new homes in Cranbrook as well as 1.4 million sq ft of industrial space at Skypark.

Tim Rook, Head of Design for Community Energy at E.ON, said: ‘By combining these technologies and an advanced control system to select and manage multiple energy sources we have the potential to create a viable heat source that is truly renewable and independent of a fuel source.’