Energy Recovery Facility

An Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) produces energy in the form of electricity, heat or both through the combustion of residual waste. Residual waste (or black bag waste) is the non-recyclable waste that’s left after recycling. The facility treats non-recyclable waste as a resource instead of sending it to rot in landfill.

The replacement Energy Recovery Facility at the EcoPark will have the ability to export power to the national grid and to provide heat to a decentralised energy network. In particular, our facility will unlock one of the UK’s largest District Heat Networks. This is a network supplying up to 60,000 local homes with low-carbon heating and hot water generated by heat from the energy recovery process. Thousands of homes in Haringey will no longer need gas boilers fitted, following a £27.8 million award from the UK government. The award supports the construction of two heat networks, which will pipe heat and hot water from the new ERF at nearby Edmonton EcoPark. The £27.8 million award to Haringey from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy includes funding for the Wood Green District Heating Network (£10.6 million) and the Tottenham Hale and Broadwater Farm District Heating Network (£17.2 million) – which will collectively supply heat to more than 10,000 homes and about 265,000m2 of commercial space when fully built out.

The generation of both heat and electrical power (as opposed to solely electricity) is more energy efficient and makes greater use of the available energy in the waste.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, NLWA Chair, said: “This significant funding from the Government confirms the environmental, social, and economic benefits and sound rationale for building an advanced and clean Energy Recovery Facility at Edmonton EcoPark. I’m glad that the government recognises that our project will use waste as a valuable resource to create long-term, low-carbon energy security for local communities, instead of letting it rot in landfill.

For an ERF to produce power, water is boiled by the hot gases generated by burning the waste. This creates steam which spins a turbine to generate electricity, which is exported to the grid. As part of this process, a cooling system is required to condense exhaust steam from the turbine back into water. The water is then pumped back to the boiler so it can be reused in the energy recovery process. In doing so, this helps to lower the carbon footprint of our ERF.

We have chosen an air-cooled system for new facility as it is better for the environment than a water-cooling system. It will use circulating air to cool the hot steam from the power generation process. The air lowers the temperature of the steam condensing it back into water which we can then pump back to the boiler and re-use it in the facility throughout the power generation process.

This process will mean we can avoid emitting vast amounts of steam into the atmosphere.

Find out more about the cooling systems.

The ERF has a compact design to keep its height and shape to a minimum.

It has a stepped design down towards the Lee Valley Regional Park to break up the building. This was designed in response to feedback we received during our consultation with the local community.

We are proposing the use of different materials for different parts of the facility to help the building fit in with its wider setting. Using colours means we can add depth and further reduce the perceived scale of the building.

As a waste authority, it is our duty to ensure that we are doing everything possible to protect the health of our residents which is why the height of the chimney stack at the new facility will be the same as the current one. The emissions will be dispersed at height which means they will dilute before they disperse which will reduce their concentration at ground level. For the large majority of the year, the contribution is effectively zero and the predicted emission concentrations are well below the limits of detection.

There will always be residual waste, but we focus our efforts on trying to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste that’s produced by our residents in the first place. Where waste is produced, we want as much as possible to be recycled, and our recycling contracts cover the widest range of materials in the country. This means that our residents have maximum opportunity to recycle.

The process of recovering energy is managed under very tightly controlled conditions. Energy recovery is much better for the environment than sending waste to landfill. Until recent times, landfill has been the most common method of disposal for municipal waste in the UK. However, this trend is changing. Landfill is widely recognised as the least sustainable method of disposal and is at the bottom of the ‘waste hierarchy’ that underpins UK waste policies.

The ERF will be part of the UK’s efforts to decarbonise its energy supply and help speed north London towards Net Zero. All modern ERFs are built with sophisticated pollution monitoring and control systems, which capture and control emissions from the facility. ERFs operate under stringent standards set by the Environment Agency, and our subject to ongoing monitoring.