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Nightclub converts the body heat of its visitors into energy

Global Goals & Global Society
Nightclub converts the body heat of its visitors into energy

One o'clock at night in the club. The air is still, the bass is pounding, the crowd is dancing exuberantly, sweat is dripping from the ceiling. It's loud and, above all, one thing: hot. That's exactly what a nightclub in Glasgow, Scotland, has done. With an innovative system, the club SWG3 uses the body heat of its visitors to generate energy. Bodyheat is the name of the successful project that could become a model for venues worldwide.

A crazy dream

Andrew Fleming-Brown has an ambitious goal: By 2025, the manager of SWG3 wants to make the well-known Glasgow venue climate-neutral. One of the biggest challenges in doing so is switching to sustainable energy, as Fleming-Brown soon discovered. And so he contacted TownRock Energy, a consulting firm that develops climate-friendly solutions based on geothermal energy. In the back of his mind, he already had an idea: why not use guests as a source to generate energy?

TownRock Managing Director David Townsend was receptive to this idea. Together, the two developed an innovative approach to storing the body heat of SWG3 visitors and using it to heat the facility. They appropriately named the concept Bodyheat.

David Townsend sums up the founding process this way: "Bodyheat is a crazy dream, born out of many nights in hot clubs, working with geothermal energy, and the idea of bringing the two things together."

How does it work?

Ultimately, behind the "crazy" idea Bodyheat is the principle of a heat pump: via a special fluid, the heat generated by the visitors inside flows through a system of pipes to heat pumps in the technical room. From there, it is fed into twelve 200-meter-deep boreholes, where it is stored for days, weeks or even several months. When needed, the energy is then returned via the same route and brought to the desired temperature via the heat pumps. The system can therefore be used for both heating and cooling. In addition, it is possible to transport the heat directly from one event room to another.

The possibilities for energy generation are enormous. After all, SWG3 is one of the hottest event venues in Scotland, with exhibitions, alternative performances and fashion shows attracting over 250,000 visitors every year. And since the average person emits around 100 watts (W) of heat, this quickly adds up to a not inconsiderable potential of energy that can be stored and used later.

Basslines for maximum energy gain

The most profitable for the energy balance, however, are the party nights. Because when we dance, we give off significantly more body heat. David Townsend measures how much by the style of music and dancing. According to him, the Rolling Stones would give off about 250W, and if the crowd jumps along to the heavy basslines of the big DJs, it would be as much as 500 to 600W of heat energy per person.

With Bodyheat, SWG3 can now harness all that energy - and significantly reduce its CO₂ footprint. By its own account, the club expects to be able to save up to 70 tons of carbon dioxide a year with the new system, still half of its total emissions. And at least the club's heating system will be completely emission-free from now on, because the electricity needed for conversion at the heat pumps comes entirely from renewable sources.

The new energy source should also bring long-term financial benefits. The cost of installing the new heating and cooling system was a whopping £600,000. But it is quite realistic to recoup this sum within the next five years through savings in energy costs, says Fleming Brown. With energy costs currently rising dramatically, it's possible the investment could pay for itself even faster than hoped.

From dream to reality

It took three years to fully develop and install the new system. On October 5, the time had finally come: at an exclusive celebration at SWG3, Bodyheat was officially put into operation, including a special edition of the Slosh Line Dance, during which the dancers generated the energy for the next few days on the side. So what started as a "crazy dream" is now a reality. But this is not the end of the Bodyheat project. Rather, if the Fleming-Browns and Townsend have their way, it's just getting started:

"Our favorite thing would be for different clubs in different cities to compete to see which one is the most environmentally friendly and see how they can use that to attract more visitors:inside. The generation that goes clubbing today is very educated about climate change, so it will make a big difference for clubs if they can say they're carbon neutral."

- David Townsend

The transition to decarbonized energy systems required to achieve the climate targets of the Sustainable Development Goals depends on public acceptance of sustainable energy innovations and policies. Gaining acceptance is challenging and necesitates a deeper comprehension of the circumstances that are most likely to drive it. To give alternative and sustainable energy sources a chance to flourish, more targeted research and funding is needed. It is not always the largest research institutes that achieve the most successful results. Sometimes it is individual ideas that make the breakthrough. These should also be taken into account. These researches are found and supported with the help of a global society that creates networks and builds bridges to achieve certain Sustainable Development Goals.


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