With tighter environmental goals to meet and a commitment to improving the health of local residents, East Cheshire Council turned to Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to improve the efficiency of its leisure centres. Mark Gibbons, National Sales Manager for CHP at Baxi Heating, reports.
Local council-run leisure centres have played a vital role over the years in ensuring both the physical and mental wellbeing of local communities. However, as intensive energy users, these facilities typically impose high operating costs on local authorities and managers. Heating and hot water alone can account for up to 65% of energy bills, particularly in complexes with swimming pools. Electricity usage is also high, especially in centres that use it extensively for air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, fans, pumps and more.
So when the opportunity arose for East Cheshire Council to refurbish the heating system at Macclesfield Leisure Centre, the energy department was keen to monitor energy use across the site and explore ways of reducing energy demand and costs where possible. With a 25m swimming pool and a learning pool in addition to a fully equipped gym, studio and changing facilities, Macclesfield Leisure Centre is one of the council’s largest leisure complexes.
A mechanical condition survey by consulting engineer SVM-Building Services Design (SVM-BSD) for Engie – the council’s principal contractor and FM provider – revealed that 60% of the existing boiler plant was not operational and beyond repair. Replacement was; therefore, essential to avoid an emergency situation and potential building closure.
Highly efficient technology
Cheshire East Council put a programme in place to upgrade the plant as part of multiple refurbishment projects at the centre. SVM-BSD’s recommendation was to refurbish the heating system with an ultra-low NOx condensing CHP unit operating in conjunction with high efficiency condensing boilers. This was a particularly effective solution for Macclesfield Leisure Centre given its continuous requirement for electricity and heat.
CHP generates electricity and heat simultaneously on site in one highly efficient process. Instead of rejecting the ‘waste’ heat to the atmosphere like traditional power stations, the heat generated by CHP can be re-used to provide high-grade heating and hot water.
“CHP was the obvious choice for us when the opportunity became available for the council’s energy department to improve the efficiency of Macclesfield Leisure Centre,” said Colin Farrelly, Energy Manager at Cheshire East Council. “The leisure centre is one of our largest energy users and, as such, the impact of applying CHP will be significant across the whole estate.”
Well-integrated system design
Pairing CHP with high-efficiency condensing boilers is an effective means of ensuring that the system performs to its full potential, reducing operational costs while generating electricity at lower gas prices. The CHP unit operates as the lead boiler with the condensing boilers providing additional heat during peak periods when required.
The design scoped by consulting engineer SVM-Building Services Design (SVM-BSD) identified a Remeha R-Gen 50/100kW ultra-low NOx condensing CHP unit working in conjunction with six Remeha Quinta Ace 160 high-efficiency condensing boilers to optimise overall system efficiency. For SVM-BSD, there were clear advantages of using one supplier for all the components.
“Working with Remeha has ensured a smooth delivery and installation process,” said Sean. “It will also simplify future maintenance and servicing, as all spare parts can be accessed immediately from a central hub.”
Paul Towler, Director at CM Oxendale – the project M&E Contractor – agreed. “Having one point of contact certainly makes life much easier,” he said.
Ensuring good integration of CHP and boilers is also key, as well as considering long-term maintenance options from the outset. Good suppliers will be able to support on both these areas.
“A major benefit for us is that the Remeha team have an in-depth understanding of both technologies which has resulted in a well-integrated system,” continued Paul. “They supported us throughout, from the design stage and hydraulic arrangement to the final ‘fine-tuning’ of the system for optimum performance.”
Minimising disruption was the key priority for Engie, the council’s principal contractor and FM provider, as the leisure centre needed to remain open throughout the works.
“Ensuring that the building and its services were unaffected during the works required careful planning, co-ordination and collaboration,” explained Karl Durber, Engie’s Senior Projects Manager. “Working in a live environment can present complex logistical challenges. But this was a really good team effort with regular progress meetings ensuring excellent communication throughout the project.”
To ensure that the CHP operates continuously and at optimum performance throughout its lifetime, the Remeha CHP team monitor the unit remotely.
An estimated 85% of reported CHP faults are able to be corrected and reset remotely. So, from an FM perspective, the remote monitoring service at Macclesfield Leisure Centre provides Engie with peace of mind that, if a problem should occur, it can be easily resolved – often without the need for a service visit.
The CHP system has been designed to use all the 100kW of heat it generates per hour to heat the swimming pool, providing space heating throughout the leisure centre, feeding the air handling units and satisfying the hot water demand.
The scheme has proved so successful that the council is now looking to install a second Remeha R-Gen CHP unit in another of its leisure centres.
CHP typically reduces energy bills by around 30%, but the ability of CHP to generate on-site electricity at lower gas prices boosts returns still further. The greater the ‘spark spread’ – or difference between gas and electricity costs – the greater the savings from a CHP system. So, with electricity prices currently at around three times the cost of gas, Cheshire East Council can anticipate significant energy and cost savings at Macclesfield Leisure Centre moving forward.
Cheshire East Council has set the ambitious target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. “Since 2009, when Cheshire East Council was established as part of structural changes, the council has reduced its CO2 by 40%,” said Colin. “Alongside our environmental goals, the council has the ambition to improve the health of residents by providing them with access to leisure centres. So, it makes perfect sense to make them as efficient as possible – and CHP is helping us do just that.”