A flagship renewable energy scheme in South Tyneside is complete and operational.
The UK-first Viking Energy Network at Jarrow will cut annual carbon emissions by 1,035 tonnes.
The multi-million-pound network harnesses low-grade heat from the River Tyne and exports it to council-owned buildings, including Jarrow Focus leisure centre, three residential tower blocks, Jarrow Business Centre and Jarrow Town Hall.

Cllr Tracey Dixon with Paul Quinn, Contracts Manager at Colloide


The scheme, which combines a river source heat pump, a combined heat and power (CHP) back-up system, a 1 megawatt solar farm, and a private wire electrical network with storage battery, is the first of its kind in the UK. An energy centre has been built on the banks of the river and an extensive pipe network is used to distribute the heat across the town.
Water source heat pumps work by extracting heat from a body of water, compressing it to increase the temperature and then converting it into useful energy in the form of hot water in a network of insulated pipes. The solar farm will provide much of the electricity to power the heat pump, ensuring it will run close to carbon neutral in the summer months.
CHP – which would be used in the event that the solar panels do not generate enough electricity – is a highly-efficient process that harnesses the heat that is a by-product of the electricity generation process, and which would otherwise be wasted.
Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "We are incredibly proud to be leading the way with this pioneering project.
"This network is the first of its kind and is unique in that it will combine three renewable technologies, ensuring minimal use of fossil fuels.
"It demonstrates our commitment to net zero and a switch to cleaner, more secure energy sources.
"The Viking network is one of three highly innovative projects we are developing to boost our on-site renewable capabilities and low carbon heating solutions. Collectively, they will cut carbon emissions by more than 4,000 tonnes."
The council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and pledged to take all necessary steps to make the council carbon neutral by 2030.
The network has been constructed by Colloide Engineering Systems Ltd.
Managing Director Paddy McGuiness said: "We are delighted to deliver this state-of-the-art project in partnership with South Tyneside Council.
"The Viking Energy Network at Jarrow exemplifies Colloide’s core values of Engineering Excellence and Sustainability, as it combines three renewable technologies to ensure minimal reliance on fossil fuels.
"It has been a challenging endeavour, but the seamless integration and collaboration between the teams from South Tyneside Council and Colloide have resulted in a highly successful project, one that not only advances the cause of clean energy but also adds significant social value within the community."
The project attracted a £4.6m ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) grant for its innovative approach.
A report carried out by Newcastle University Energy Centre to assess the impact and effectiveness of the project states: "VENJ was well aligned with the priorities of South Tyneside Council, and UK Government objectives, at the time of ERDF grant award. Since that time, changes in the energy landscape have further strengthened the case for VENJ. Concerns about cost and security of supply, and climate change, have increased since the project began. New policies from UK Government have highlighted the strategic value of heat networks and heat pumps in the transitions to net zero, and as such the project has high value as a demonstration of the two technologies. The experience of South Tyneside Council in delivery of this project can benefit other civic partners."
There is scope to expand the heat network and connect other buildings in Jarrow including sheltered housing schemes, schools and a local hospital. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is funding a phase 2 study into this.