An £18 million ‘tower of light’ that will provide combined heat and power (CHP) to iconic buildings in Manchester city centre received the go-ahead on March 8th.
Manchester Evening News political and social affairs editor Jennifer Williams tweeted from the council’s planning meeting as they debated the proposal, dubbed the Manchester Civic Quarter Heat Network.
If carried out as planned, it would see a 40-metre CHP generating tower built above ground adjacent to Manchester Central, the former GMEX exhibition centre behind the Midland Hotel.
This would then transmit hot water and electricity via two kilometres of pipes underground to the exhibition venue and the hotel, as well as to Bridgewater Hall, Manchester Art Gallery and Manchester Central Library.
Manchester Town Hall, currently closed for refurbishment, could also be connected to the CHP Tower of Light’s output as part of its redevelopment.
The structure itself, meanwhile, would also serve as a kind of public art installation, a link back to the city’s industrial heritage capable of being illuminated in different colours using LED lighting.
In the March 8th meeting, planning officer Dave Roscoe called the plans “quite spectacular”, noting how the open design of the tower would allow passers-by to see its inner workings.
Councillor Mary Watson admitted that she did not understand how a CHP tower works, but loved the application anyway, calling the tower “beautiful” especially for its illuminated colour-changing ability.
And Councillor Basil Curley echoed her comments, expressing his own love for the pipework and an interest in learning more about how the tower would function.
With no objections from statutory bodies responsible for any of the nearby listed buildings – many of which would benefit from the eco-friendly heat and power generated by the CHP tower anyway – the application was granted approval.
Construction work is likely to begin quite soon, with the initial build of the tower expected to start in spring 2018, although the underground pipework could take up to 18 months to complete.
A £3 million contribution from the UK government will go towards covering the costs, while Manchester Town Hall will pay the rest before recouping the outlay in full from the heat and power generated on-site.
The 40-metre CHP tower should eventually stand sentinel to the left of Manchester Central’s front entrance, adjacent to the Metrolink line as it runs up to Deansgate-Castlefield.
Importantly, as the land is alongside the track, work should not mean interrupting Metrolink services, allowing the trams to continue running throughout the Manchester Civic Quarter Heat Network project.
If you have any questions about CHP or other energy topics covered in this blog, please call Envantage on 0800 054 2577.