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Four projects which will support national energy policy goals and boost economic growth in the North East have been awarded funding from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP’s) Energy for Growth Fund.

The first four projects to receive Energy for Growth funding are: Hydrogen for Heat, Hexham Hydro, Northumbria University Fabrication (NU-FAB) and the North East Geothermal Assessment.

Andrew Clark, North East LEP Energy Programme Lead, explains: “The Energy for Growth Fund was launched in September to support projects which will drive economic growth in our region. I’m delighted that the first projects to be successful have now been awarded funding, with further projects going through appraisal.

“The expressions of interest we received demonstrated that there’s a strong pipeline of projects in our region which not only have the potential to benefit businesses and communities, but which also demonstrate the region’s ability to deliver on national energy strategy.”

At Northumbria University, NU-FAB is an open-access rapid fabrication facility for prototyping opto-electronic components which can be used in sustainable energy applications and beyond. Over the next two years, regional businesses will be able to access NU-FAB to achieve proof-of-concept R&D without charge.

Neil Beattie, Associate Professor at Northumbria University, said: “The Energy for Growth fund provides a great opportunity for Northumbria University to support regional businesses via the provision of key R&D services that have the potential to create new revenue streams.“

NU-FAB uniquely offers combined inkjet printing and photonic curing capabilities, which can be used in the creation of components such as electrodes, barrier layers and transparent conductors.

Businesses with an interest in using NU-FAB should contact Dr Neil Beattie at Northumbria University on [email protected].

The Hexham Hydro project is investigating the feasibility of using hydro-energy from the River Tyne to provide power for Wentworth Leisure Centre. The study by Northumberland County Council is part of the council’s climate change commitment and its drive to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The third funded project is the North East Geothermal Assessment, which is a study by Newcastle University into the geothermal resource potential across the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area.

The study will use existing data, including heritage data from coal exploration and oil and gas exploration, to build a subsurface model to evaluate potential deep geothermal energy resources. It will help understand the opportunities for geothermal energy to be part of integrated local energy systems.

Mark Ireland, Lecturer in Energy Geosciences at Newcastle University, said: “Currently, across the UK, deep geothermal energy and heat pumps account for only around 5% of renewable energy. Emissions from heating are the largest source of emissions in the UK and geothermal energy has the potential to make a significant contribution to decarbonising heating, while providing new economic opportunities, across the North East.”

The fourth project, Hydrogen for Heat, is centred around a hydrogen powered combined heat and power (CHP) system and will create a laboratory here in the North East. The project will establish a facility at Durham University to demonstrate hydrogen fuelled heating, storage and power generation with potential commercial applications.

Dr Andrew Smallbone, Associate Professor at Durham University, said:

“Hydrogen is central to enabling the UK economy to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Building upon our existing capability in this area, the new laboratory will take an internationally leading role in decarbonising heating and hydrogen technologies.

“One opportunity is the co-generation of heat and electrical power which in combination yields a very high efficiency solution. We will use the laboratory to advance and demonstrate one such system which is powered by both natural gas and/or hydrogen.”

The projects have been supported through the North East Energy for Growth strategy, which aims to drive economic growth in the North East while bringing sector partners together to deliver at scale on national energy strategy.

The strategy identifies 13 themes where the North East can both contribute to national policy and bring more and better jobs to the region, ranging from low-emission transport to heat networks, and geothermal energy from old mine workings.

A further energy project has also received funding via the North East LEP’s innovation project development fund. The InTEGReL site (Integrated Transport Electricity and Gas Research Laboratory) has been awarded funding to undertake detailed design work for a proposed Customer Energy Village. The Customer Energy Village (CEV) will see construction of several properties typical to the UK’s current housing stock, to allow retrofitting of various multi-vector energy solutions on site.

Led by Northern Gas Networks in partnership with Newcastle University, Northern Powergrid, Northumbrian Water, Siemens and 3 Mobile, InTEGReL is a fully integrated whole energy systems development and demonstration facility.  It will provide a space for academia, SMEs and government to explore and test new energy technologies and policy across an integrated energy system.

The North East Energy for Growth strategy received £1.2m from the Government’s Local Growth Fund. The Local Growth Fund is supporting major capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure and sustainable transport as part of the North East Growth Deal.

Read about the North East Energy for Growth strategy.

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