An invention which could revolutionise how people fuel their homes and businesses by converting domestic rubbish into energy could prevent 13.5 million tonnes of valuable resource entering the UK’s waste system, says its inventor.
And now, following more than 8,500 hours of testing and six months of field trials, Nik Spencer says the initial results are pointing to HERU (Home Energy Resources Unit) as a major breakthrough technology, which, if rolled out across the UK, could prevent 13.5 million tonnes of valuable resource entering the UK’s waste system.
The HERU takes everyday items, which would have been destined for disposal, such as coffee cups, plastics and nappies, and converts them into energy to heat water for the home or commercial building.
In six months at Wychavon District Council, which covers the towns of Pershore, Droitwich Spa and Evesham, the HERU, operating five days a week, every week, to date has processed 3-4 kilograms of resource per day, equating to 420 kilos of diverted resource from entering the “waste” system.
If multiplied by all of the homes in the UK (27 million), it could prevent a staggering 13.5 million tonnes of resource from entering the UK waste system in just six months.
The testing showed that the energy produced during the six-month trial was 1,050 kWh for the one machine. If taken to each home in the UK, the material we once threw away could produce 28.3 billion kWh of energy directly to the home – all this in just six months.
The analysis of the data, coupled with detailed assessment of the technology by Ricardo Energy & Environment in 2018 found that the HERU could save each UK household around 72kg of CO2 annually, as the electric grid becomes further decarbonised in line with Government policy it could save up to 1,200 kg of CO2 annually, equating to 32.4 million tonnes, or 8.8% of the total UK carbon dioxide output if installed across UK households.
The HERU has 68% less global warming impact than co-mingled collections and 32% less than kerbside collections, with 554% and 733% less respectively when HERU is powered by the same renewable energy mix Norway enjoyed in 2012. HERU powered with 100% renewable energy would deliver greater results again.
Nik Spencer, inventor of the HERU, said, “I am incredibly pleased with the reliability of the trial unit, the effort that went into the testing before we delivered the HERU into the field has paid dividends. Having engineers from F1 and aerospace on our team helped us deliver the highest of quality and detail. And naturally, with any trial we have learnt things, so, for example, we changed the valve design to further improve reliability.”
The power and impact of the trials, coupled with 8,640 hours of testing, and the independent analysis has, Nik believes, the potential to create change on a national basis. Nik commented, “We hope these trials will drive policy change, so when new homes are built they don’t have to contribute to the ever-growing problems. We are very much looking to our political figures to be part of this change and help Britain cement itself as pioneers in green technologies on a global basis.”
Through policy change to behavioural change, the HERU has the potential to change our relationship with what we currently discard, misbelieving it to be rubbish. Nik said, “From difficult plastics, like coffee cups, yogurt pots, food-stained black plastics, nappies – all things that are really difficult to recycle – what we are doing is taking that right back to its basic form and converting this as a fuel source for the conventional boiler. How exciting would it be if people actively took home their packaging as they know it could save them money and help the environment.”
The tests of the home size HERU unit are also driving the design of the commercial HERU, the 240 litre machine is approximately 12 times bigger in capacity, utilising 12 times more resource and expected to produce 12 times more energy than the domestic unit – details of this will be released shortly.