Ringsend incinerator to supply heat for 30,000 more homes

Dublin City Council identifies sources for double the district heat demand of capital

 Poolbeg incinerator: The Ringsend district heating system will use hot water produced by it to pump heat directly to homes and offices without the need for a boiler in each building. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

Poolbeg incinerator: The Ringsend district heating system will use hot water produced by it to pump heat directly to homes and offices without the need for a boiler in each building. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

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The Ringsend incinerator has the potential to heat 60 per cent more homes than expected, including new apartments and houses in Georgian Dublin, according to a new assessment by Dublin City Council.

The long-awaited project to source heating from the incinerator, which opened almost four years ago, will finally get under way this year with the council preparing to seek bids from energy companies to develop the scheme.

The council also plans to source district heating from other industries, such as data centres and electricity plants, and has already identified enough sources for double the heat demand of the city.

The Ringsend district heating system will use hot water produced by the incinerator to pump heat directly to homes and offices without the need for a boiler in each building.

The council is finalising the business case for the project and its new assessment shows the incinerator could heat 80,000 homes, an increase on the 50,000 previously cited.

“The more energy-efficient homes are, the more homes district heating can supply, and with more NZEB [Nearly Zero-Energy Building] and better insulated buildings generally, we think there will be the capacity to heat up to 80,000 homes,” Victor Coe, senior executive engineer with the council said.

Surplus energy

When the incinerator received planning permission in 2007 it was expected to have the capacity to heat the docklands as well as the future homes at the former Irish Glass Bottle Company site. However, it has emerged these developments will only use two-thirds of the energy produced by the facility.

“The facility will produce 90 megawatts of energy, about two-thirds of that will be used in Poolbeg, Ringsend and the docklands, so we are actively investigating potential other areas of Dublin where we can supply heat to,” Mr Coe said. “It could get us as far as Elm Park and St Vincent’s Hospital, or Grangegorman or the Guinness lands at James’s Gate.”

Since 2014, all new buildings in the docklands must have the capacity to take district heating, but older houses can be retrofitted, he said.

“There is no reason you couldn’t connect up Georgian Dublin. Any building that has a central heating system can connect to a district heating pipe. It’s a matter of switching out the boiler and switching on the district heating system.”

In addition to heating, the system provides instant hot water, removing the need for an immersion and, as fossil fuels would no longer be used, there are no carbon monoxide risks.

Environmental dividend

The system will also provide a massive environmental dividend for the wider city, he said, with the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 16,000 tonnes a year.

“An average petrol car would have to drive 105.6 million km to emit this CO2. That’s the equivalent of driving from Malin to Mizen Head 160,000 times.”

The project would result in the reduction of emissions in Poolbeg, Ringsend, and the docklands by a minimum of 80 per cent, Mr Coe said.

James Nolan, district heating project manager, said the council would be seeking a joint venture partnership with an experienced energy company later this year and hopes to have the system operational by late 2024 or early 2025, in time to serve new homes on the former Glass Bottle Company site next to the incinerator.

“This is effectively a start-up utility, so it is important that we get it right so district heating can continue to grow across the city,” Mr Nolan said. “There’s a lot of waste heat from other industrial sources. We estimate 75 per cent of the buildings in Dublin would be suitable for district heating, but we have identified enough sources to cover double the heat demand of the city.”