Central Bedfordshire Council news and press releases

Powering ahead with innovative geothermal energy trial

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

As temperatures begin to drop and the winter maintenance season approaches, we're well prepared with a new geothermal energy system helping keep our vehicles on the roads.

As part of the £22.9m ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme funded by the Department for Transport, five geothermic probes have been installed 150 metres into the ground. This solution was implemented by engineering contractor Eurovia UK – as part of its exciting ‘Power Road’ technology.

When it’s warm, the car park surface heats up. Tubes just below the surface filled with a special liquid capture this warmth as heat energy. This energy is then transferred to the geothermal probes where it can be stored in an on-site storage unit to keep its heat for several months.

The geothermic probes combined with a heat pump respond when the temperature drops to freezing. Similar to underfloor heating, the car park is heated from underneath the surface to prevent ice forming or snow settling. This means there is no need to grit the car park, and vehicles can continue to operate, saving both time and money.

Any excess energy can also be used for other purposes. In this instance, the council will use the surplus energy to heat the depot building, saving on energy costs.

Councillor Steven Dixon, our Executive Member for Sustainability and Transformation, said:

I am thrilled we're part of this exciting and innovative trial. This cutting-edge geothermal technology will respond during cold weather using thermal energy to keep our car park operational and our highways vehicles out and about in our communities.

Our next step – along with Cranfield University – will be to look at the results of the three trials and consider how we could scale them up and branch out across Central Bedfordshire and into our other buildings. We are committed to doing our bit for the planet and the climate change crisis.

This initiative is one of our ADEPT Live Labs trials, working in partnership with Ringway Jacobs, where three renewable energy projects have been piloted The three schemes focus on capturing and reusing solarkinetic and thermal energy. It follows a successful £1.05 million bid to the ADEPT programme.

Giles Perkins, Live Labs Programme Director, said:

Thinking differently about how we harvest, store and use energy will become ever more important as we tackle the climate emergency. This deployment at Thorn Turn illustrates how we can harness natural resources to help deliver the essential services that keep our communities functioning. The geothermal installation coupled with the solar and kinetic deployments in Bedfordshire show how new approaches can be taken to decarbonising the whole of our transportation system.

We've also been working on an exciting piece of innovation which helps with our gritting runs and has considerable sustainability benefits. A rainwater harvesting system at our Thorn Turn depot collects rainwater that would otherwise flow down gutters into the drain. The collected water is stored in a 15,000 litre tank and used for a pre-wet solution which enables the gritting salt to spread more accurately and stick better to the road surface.

The system was first used in January 2021 throughout last winter’s gritting season. It's led to a reduction in the amount of salt and fresh water being used, which is an added benefit to the environment and saves money.

Following the successful trial, the council installed a smaller, 1,000-litre, rainwater harvesting system at its Sandy highways depot in April. The rainwater collected is used to clean vehicles and equipment and in the council’s highway maintenance programme such as to mix with asphalt and other materials.

ADEPT represents local authority, county, unitary and metropolitan directors. The two-year ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme is supported by project partners SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP. Nine local authorities are working on projects to introduce digital innovation across SMART mobility, transport, highways, maintenance, data, energy and communications. Live Labs is part of ADEPT’s SMART Places programme to support the use of digital technology in place-based services.