Could London's lost rivers provide heating for the Queen?!

July 24, 2018


London’s lost rivers

Did you know a whole load of rivers used to run through London? There was the Fleet flowing through the City, the Tyburn in the West End, the Effra causing through Brixton. And loads more. 

Once upon a time, these waterways powered the city. They provided transport, drinking water and power for mills. And of course they were a great place to chuck sewage - one of the reasons they were covered over. 

But they still flow underground. Go to the right spot along the Farringdon Road, on Hampstead Heath or under Vauxhall Bridge and their echoes remain.


But could they power the city once more?

We could actually get our central heating from these lost rivers using a clever bit of tech called a heat pump. Heat pumps collect small amounts of heat from earth, air (or in this case) water and, using some simple physics, amplify it to feed the heating system in the buildings above. 

Right now in the UK we mostly use gas for our central heating. Heat pumps are waaay better than the environment than gas - they help tackle air pollution locally and combat climate change.

A college in Scotland is already using the tech. They’ve installed a heat pump in a sewer (if you think about what’s in there, I guess it’s pretty warm…)! It provides the college with 95% of their heating.


Heating fit for the Queen

So, all you need is a building that needs lots of heating, and an underground river running nearby. And it just so happens that one of the lost rivers flows right underneath a certain royal palace.

The River Tyburn starts its journey in Hampstead, then flows Regent’s Park and Green Park and right underneath the Buckingham Palace forecourt - where the changing of the guard happens.

Some boffins have worked out that a heat pump in the right spot could provide Her Majesty with more heating than the palace currently uses - even on chilly days. 

Of course in such an old building it’s unlikely they could use all of that resource - the refurbishments needed would be mega. But the ancient Tyburn could certainly going some way to keeping the royal family nice and toasty. 


Next stop, everywhere?

This is not just for royalty. Brockwell Lido in south London could be heated to a balmy 25C in winter thanks to the nearby River Effra. One north London school could be 100% heated by the nearby River Fleet. 

It’s not just for London either. There are plenty of underground drains and sewers around the country - and they could be perfect for some eco-friendly heating. We could soon see heat pumps popping up all over the place.

It’s time to take the plunge! 

This blog post was written by our climate activist pals over at 10:10.