Case study: Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service

Three Northumberland County Council (NCC) fire stations operated by Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service have reduced their reliance on fossil fuels and identified innovative ways to generate income to invest back into core services thanks to a recently completed first phase of ground source heating installations.

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Prudhoe, Amble, and Seahouses fire stations each had their old electric heaters removed and replaced with Kensa ground source heat pumps fed by boreholes drilled in the fire station forecourts.

Kensa published a project blog to document key milestones in the project: click here.

Project scope:

At each building, a new ground source heat pump system including boreholes and new wet heating system was installed. The existing heating system was removed. In all cases, the buildings had to remain operational while the works were ongoing.

Kensa Contracting Ltd were responsible for the full system design carrying out detailed surveys to enable room specific heat losses to be calculated to enable correct sizing of the heat pump and the heat emitters. Additionally, detailed geological surveys were carried out to correctly design the boreholes. Once on site, Kensa took full responsibility for managing the projects and employed specialist sub-contractors to carry out the drilling, headering and trenching and the internal installations.

Kensa was also responsible for ensuring that the systems met all eligibility criteria for the non-domestic RHI and were successfully accredited on this scheme. Some key headline figures from the five projects:

  • Total installed GSHP capacity of 74 kW
  • Total installed borehole depth of 2,070 metres
  • Total number of heat emitters installed is 60 (including radiators and fan coil units)


When an organisation trials something that is innovative to them, they typically adopt a cautious approach with a small-scale trial. NCC should be applauded for realising that although GSHP technology was innovative to them, it is tried and tested technology offering many benefits. Consequently, their GSHP programme set out to tackle problems on a large scale from the outset. NCC have installed the technology in older buildings where GSHP are often considered to be an unsuitable fit. However, if the UK is to significantly reduce its carbon emissions and meet its climate change targets then it is these types of buildings we need to target.


Before contracts were awarded, each project had to pass a rigorous scrutiny process within Northumberland County Council. The projects had to be approved by a senior group of Director Level officers and the elected Cabinet of the council before final sign off by the Council Leader and the Chief Executive. Although NCC are concerned about the environment and want to “do their bit” to reduce carbon emissions, only projects that show clear economic benefits to the council are given the go-ahead. The council considered the lifetime of the new systems to be 20 years (although of course, the boreholes will far outlive this) and estimate the following benefits:

  • Running cost savings of £198,969 over 20 years
  • RHI income of £247,627 over 20 years
  • NPV of the investment to be £90,463 after 20 years (not including counterfactual costs of upgrading the heating systems which was required anyway and which would increase this NPV)

The council also intend to retain ownership of these buildings long into the future and the installation of the boreholes was considered to be an infrastructure investment that would reap benefits long after the 20 years of this analysis.

Environmental considerations:

Northumberland County Council is committed to making its buildings more energy efficient as well as more environmentally friendly. They believe that ground source heat pumps will play an important role in helping them achieve their aims. Across all projects, the annual reduction in carbon emissions is estimated to be at least xxxx tonnes. Due to the success of these projects, Northumberland CC already have plans in place to install more GSHP with proposals currently going through the approval process. Consequently, the carbon savings are set to increase as a result of this programme.


The project is expected to save the council over £198,969 over the next 20 years in energy bills while generating income of over £247,627 via the RHI. This is vital for the council as its resources are becoming ever more stretched and it continually needs to make cuts.

This project was a brave move for Northumberland County Council as they realised that a small trial would achieve little and so opted for a full scale programme from the off. This project has demonstrated that GSHP can become a mainstream heating solution for the thousands of public buildings that exist throughout the UK. It shows that the technology can be applied in difficult retrofit situations and to a wide range of buildings including fire stations, offices and council depots. It is an exemplar project that can be widely replicated and therefore has the potential to make a vital difference to our environment.

Councillor Nick Oliver, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, said:

As a council we are determined to do all we can to reduce our carbon footprint while looking at new ways of generating income.

This innovative technology has already proved successful and is something we are looking to expand in the future.

Simon Lomax, Managing Director of Kensa Heat Pumps comments:

Northumberland County Council’s pioneering programme will reduce running costs, decrease ongoing maintenance costs and lower the carbon footprint of a wide variety of buildings.  The Council’s costs are being fully recovered via the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive so there is a robust financial justification to underpin the initiative.  We hope other local authorities will follow this example as there are compelling reasons to support an upgrade to ground source heat pumps.

Key Facts

  • Three fire stations
  • Displacing electric heaters
  • Boreholes in fire station forecourt
  • Non Domestic RHI eligible