Using Human-Heating For Renewable Energy

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A crowded concert hall with scene stage lights in blue tones, rock show performance, with people silhouette, on dance floor air during a concert festival


Glasgow arts venue SWG3’s innovative new heating and cooling system uses the captured body heat emitted from its visitors to provide a renewable energy source. 




As part of its drive to become a net zero venue, the first-of-its-kind BODYHEAT system took three years to develop. The system is now active across a 1250-person capacity event space, another 1000-person event space, and the main foyer/entrance. BODYHEAT can capture the body heat emitted from all of the venue’s visitors. This heat is then pumped 200m underground beneath a new community garden at the back of the venue and then stored across 12 underground boreholes. This stored energy can then be used to heat or cool the venue at a later date. 





The BODYHEAT system, developed by heat pump technology company TownRock Energy, uses air collectors in SWG3’ ceilings to capture heat being made, e.g. from people dancing at the venue, and takes that heat some 650 feet into the Earth, warming the surrounding rocks and cooling the club during parties. Rocks can act like heat batteries which means that during non-club times (i.e. when SWG3 is simply being used as an office or arts venue), the stored heat can be pumped back up from the rocks to warm the venue spaces. 


Thermal batteries in the form of chambers containing rocks are not new, but the technology of these systems has advanced in recent years. For example, in 2017, Energy Technologies Institute and Newcastle University started work on a major new research centre developing the energy storage technology of the future, focusing on hot rock batteries. 




The venue says that one of the heat pumps is even able to provide simultaneous heating and cooling. For example, body heat can be captured live during an event (e.g. from dancing) and be instantly delivered to the foyer to provide heat and maintain the desired temperature. 



Complete Disconnection From Gas Boilers


SWG3 plans to rely totally on the BODYHEAT system and completely disconnect from the gas boilers, thereby substantially reducing the amount of carbon used and, of course, energy costs. The fact that the electricity used to run the BODYHEAT system comes from 100 per cent renewable sources means that the venue’s heating and cooling system offers net-zero carbon emissions. 


May Influence Other Venues


Andrew Fleming-Brown, MD of SWG, said of the recent switch-on of the new BODYHEAT system: “We’re thrilled that after three years of planning, consultation, and construction, we are able to switch on the first BODYHEAT system. As well as being a huge step towards our goal of becoming net zero and will hopefully influence others from our industry and beyond to follow suit, working together to tackle climate change.” 


What Does This Mean For Your Organisation?


SWG’s innovative new heating/cooling system shows how hot rock batteries combined with other new technologies could provide a sustainable, renewable, cost-saving, no-carbon heating and cooling system for busy public buildings, clubs, and other venues. If more widely adopted, this could be a way for other cities and towns to reduce their carbon emissions, help meet their environmental targets, and move towards a more sustainable future. The combination of the natural properties of rocks and front-end technology could revolutionise energy requirements in some sectors, helping some businesses and organisations to reduce their costs, elevate their environmental credentials, and inspire others to follow their example.