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London Underground will harness waste heat to warm homes

Waste not, want not

A London subway platform with a train stopped on the track to the left. Shutterstock

The systems that power air conditioning, industrial factories, and the train for your morning commute generate vast amounts of heat and energy—and most of it goes to waste.

But London has new plans for the heat generated by its rapid public transit system, the London Underground. The city just announced that it would begin harnessing waste heat from its Northern line to warm up offices, community centers, and homes in the borough of Islington.

The idea is to capture heat generated by the London Underground’s mechanical systems and pipe it through heat pumps that would feed into Islington’s energy network in the form of heat and water. The proposal is meant to be a low-carbon alternative to gas heating, which the U.K. government plans to ban by 2025.

“Almost half the energy used in the U.K. is for heat, and a third of U.K. emissions are from heating. With the government declaring that we must be carbon-neutral within 30 years we need to find a way to take the carbon out of our heating system,” Tim Rotheray, director of the Association for Decentralized Energy, told the Guardian.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) estimates London produces enough waste heat to meet 38 percent of its heating demand. Creating district-wide heating solutions would take what’s already in abundance and put it to good use. This plan for the London Underground is already in the works, and the city says it should be able to help heat 1,350 homes by the end of the year.