Swimming pool emissions take a dive

Taking a dip at council-run swimming pools is now kinder on the climate, thanks to the arrival of new technology.

Published: Wednesday, 3rd August 2022

Swimming pool at Woodgreen leisure centre

The energy used to heat its swimming pools has historically been one of the biggest sources of Cherwell District Council’s carbon emissions.

But now, the outdoor pool at Woodgreen leisure centre is being kept balmy for swimmers by one of the largest solar thermal installations of its kind in the UK. And the council’s three other public pools are being kept warm by new air source heat pumps.

Councillor Dan Sames, Portfolio Holder for Cleaner and Greener Communities, said: “Reducing the carbon emissions from our leisure centres has been a high priority in this council's drive to tackle climate change. Now, when you dive into the pool, go the gym, or play a game of badminton you can rest in the knowledge that your carbon footprint has been reduced.

“Councils need to lead by example in driving forward the changes that are needed to address the climate emergency, and we are pleased to be so far ahead in making these ambitious schemes an everyday part of people’s visits to our leisure centres.” 

Air source heat pumps draw energy from the wider atmosphere, meaning no fossil fuels need to be burnt, while Woodgreen’s solar tech heats the pool using free power from the sun.

In a boost to the council’s drive to reach net zero, the leisure centre upgrades are set to save 785 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) every year.

Cllr Sames added: “We’ve been proactive in applying to the government for funding to do make these improvements, and this comprehensive overhaul of our swimming pools is part of a programme that will eliminate around 25 per cent of our emissions by the end of 2022. Although we still have work to do to reduce our carbon footprint, I hope this makes people’s trips to the leisure facilities over summer and all year round, even more enjoyable.”

The leisure centres where air source heat pumps have been installed are Spiceball, Bicester; and Kidlington and Gosford.

At Bicester leisure centre, solar car ports have also been added, feeding electricity into the building. These solar panels generate more electricity than is needed to power the council’s entire waste and recycling depot in Banbury.          

Air source heat pumps are also now heating Whitelands Sports Pavilion in Bicester, meaning the use of gas has been completely eliminated there.

To round off the climate-friendly upgrades, energy efficient hand dryers and LED lighting have been installed at all sites. The lightning is trigged by motion sensors and is now in use both indoors and in some outdoor sports areas.

The decarbonisation works at council buildings have an overall budget of £5.2 million, paid for by a Public Sector Decarbonisation Grant from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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