Plans to erect an £18m ‘Tower of Light’ outside Manchester’s former GMex centre have been officially unveiled, bringing forward the city’s plans for the Civic Quarter Heat Network and opening up new opportunities for Manchester to go green.
In case you missed the recent headlines, we could soon be adding a 40 metre-high ‘tower of light’ to Manchester’s list of recognisable landmarks. Following the announcement of winning designs from London-based architects Tonkin Liu, plans for Manchester’s Civic Quarter Heat Network are gradually moving forward, with the Tower of Light playing an integral role.
With the planning application under discussion by the council and Vital Energi and momentum building on the project, we could see Manchester’s dreams of going green truly kicking off this spring – making huge headway towards goals for an environmentally-friendly city.
Introducing the Civic Quarter Heat Network
Although impressive on its own, the so-called ‘Tower of Light’ – named for its LED illumination after dark – is really only part of a greater design: The Civic Quarter Heat Network. The network will allow for Manchester’s historical buildings to be heated in an environmentally-friendly way, reducing energy expenditure and decreasing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3500 tonnes per year.
How it works is fascinating: electricity and heat – via hot water – will travel from an energy centre, along a two kilometre network of pipes under the city, and into buildings such as Manchester Central and the Midlands Library. Additional buildings can then be connected in the future, such as Manchester Town Hall, following its refurbishment.
Manchester Central in particular will play a large role in these plans, with a nearby energy centre generating the power through a combined heat and power unit (CHP), with two natural gas boilers capturing the heat generated.
Experts believe that the capturing of heat being used to generate power (rather than losing said heat to the environment) gives the CQHN a far higher rate of efficiency compared to other methods. The project thus works perfectly alongside the council’s objectives to achieve carbon emission reductions of 41% by 2020 – a rapidly closing timeframe.
The CQHN was birthed from the government’s own environmental plans, with grants from a pot of £320m being offered to cities and towns willing to develop regional heat networks. Together, these heat networks are slated to reduce heating costs by 30%, and by 2030 the government aims to have heat networks supplying 18% of the UK’s heating demands (as opposed to 2% currently).
For Manchester – which received £3m from the fund, with town hall offering up the rest of the funding – it’s an opportunity to bolster the city’s reputation as an environmentally-friendly community, but the organisers have not been free of public concern.
Some residents and commuters have aired their worries that the nearby Metrolink service will be disrupted by work on the heat network, whilst others are anxious around the cost at a time of uncertainty. Addressing these concerns, those responsible for CQHN have reassured the city’s residents that the Metrolink will, in fact, be unaffected, and that projections show the project to eventually be cost-neutral.
Whilst these concerns are understandable, digging deeper into the project and what it means for the city, the country and the planet can offer much-needed reassurances – research which everybody could benefit from undertaking. And if the project really does begin as planned in the spring, then we could be about to witness the start of a new golden age for Manchester. Or should that be a ‘green’ age?
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