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This wastewater heat pump in Berlin will warm 45,000 homes

An industrial heating and cooling system. Photo: Dreamstime
An industrial heating and cooling system. Photo: Dreamstime

Power company Vattenfall has started building a gigantic heat pump that will use residual heat from a wastewater treatment facility to warm some 45,000 households.

Why it matters: Heating and cooling accounts for almost half of global energy use and over 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, so decarbonising the sector will be critical to meeting climate goals.

Residential and industrial-scale heat pumps, which rely on similar technology to air conditioners, are expected to play a major role in the transition. They’re more efficient than conventional technologies — they transfer and amplify heat, rather than generating it from scratch — and are cheaper to run.

The latest: Vattenfall said in a statement the installation of the 75MW heat pump at the Reuter West power plant, which should be complete in 2026, “will make a significant contribution to decarbonisation at this location.”

The heat pump will be connected to the purification stage of the Ruhleben sewage treatment plant and will feed into Berlin’s district heating network. It will yield emissions savings equivalent to taking 36,000 cars off the road.

Robert Habeck, Germany’s minister for economic affairs and climate protection, said heat from wastewater plants and other sources is available “in practically every city”, and could be tapped for district heating networks.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa-Gatineau, Canada, leftover heat from a paper factory is now heating 615,000 square feet of apartments and office space. That facility is being expanded and could heat 4 million square feet of space.

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