A new worker-led co-operative unlocking the potential of the renewable heat under our feet

Geothermal heat networks are the sleeping giant of decarbonisation. Air source heat pumps are rightly celebrated for their ability to harvest ambient heat and take the place of a gas boiler. But there is an alternative: as little as ten metres below us there is a source of warmth that is almost constant year round. That means that rather than multiplying the energy input by 1.5, a heat pump drawing on energy underground could multiply it by 4. So, you put in 100W of (hopefully solar) electricity to a pump connected to the well, you could get 400W out.

The problem is that most of us haven’t the space or the capital to get drillers in and sink wells into the ground – it works much better as a solution for a neighbourhood connecting dozens of houses than it does for a single home.

That’s where Space for Change comes it. It plans to work in communities – urban neighbourhoods, market towns or even large villages – to build the critical mass in support of a heat network. The key is to identify a ‘hub’ where the heat demand is concentrated and there is a suitable site for digging or drilling the heat collector. In S4C’s first project, that’s a development of social housing in Taunton. Elsewhere it might be a business, a property developer, offices… what ever it is, that’s the Space for Change.

cad drawing of proposed buildings at 10 and 11a East Reach

All it needs is people – a team ready to make this a reality

We have established the organisation – a co-operative society – and we have build community support and raised some initial funding from the Community Energy Fund. But we’re missing one really important thing: people.

This isn’t meant to be something that you do in your spare time. Our goal is to create sustainable jobs in renewable energy: that’s why we chose a worker’s co-op as the basis for our legal form. The community activists who have taken the project this far now need to hand over to a team who can establish this trade from the ground up (so to speak).

You won’t be alone. You have two partners in the shape of South West Co-operative Development (which has used it’s expertise in business planning and development to piece together the plan and the structure so far) and Somerset Co-op Community Land Trust (which as the developer of the Taunton site will be the first development partner).

Interested? Email alex@southwest.coop or come along to our launch event on the 26th July at the Albemarle Centre in Taunton.