Abbey Pools, Cambridge

Project: Abbey Pools, Cambridge

Abbey Pools in Cambridge, has been transformed into a model of energy efficiency. The complex, which includes two indoor swimming pools, is now heated by one of the highest performing solar thermal collectors in the world, generating up to 70 per cent of the complex’s hot water needs.
The solar energy both reduces the energy bills and the overall carbon footprint of the establishment.
Cambridge City Council wanted to reduce energy use and lower the carbon footprint of the city’s Abbey Pools, two indoor heated swimming pools, including one 25-metre pool and a smaller 15-metre learner pool.
The designated installers, Suffolk-based Sustain Services, initially explored installing solar PV panels. However, when the system and associated FiT payments were compared to the energy and financial savings that could be delivered with solar thermal and RHI payments, the decision was taken to switch to installing a solar thermal system.
Kingspan Solar was approached by Sustain Services to design a system that maximised efficiencies and savings.
Our specification engineers designed a system using 40 Thermomax DF100-30 solar thermal vacuum tube collectors, covering 120 metres2 of roof area, to supply solar heated water for both pools.
Specifically designed and manufactured to operate in Northern European climates, the market-leading Thermomax collectors use vacuum technology to deliver an unrivalled transfer of solar energy into heat. They are up to 30 per cent more effective than traditional flat plate panels and allow energy from the sun to be captured efficiently and effectively. The vacuum inside each tube not only provides outstanding insulation, it also suppresses heat loss by protecting the system from cold, wet or windy weather. The result is optimum performance levels all year round.
However, it wasn’t just the inherent efficiency of the system which appealed, but its relative ease of installation.
The original plan for fixing the solar thermal panels had been to mount them on A-frames facing south to maximise their absorption of solar energy.
By contrast, the Thermomax tubes are mounted in a modular system, which are far simpler and cheaper to install. The modular system can easily be fitted by a single operator and each tube was just twisted to face south, negating the need for A-frames. The ease of manoeuvring and man-handling the tubes during installation also reduced health and safety risks for the contractor.
By the end of June 2013, little more than three weeks after work started, the entire system installation - including the connecting pipework to the boiler - was complete and delivering heated water to the swimming pools.
Early results have showed enormous energy savings - surpassing the initial T*SOL predictions, which suggested annual savings of around 85,000kWh, equating to financial savings (including the RHI) of more than £8,000 (based on actual readings taken in July 2013). Although the system’s performance has been boosted by a hot summer.
Richard Secular at Sustain Services says: “This was an exciting project for both parties which utilised Kingspan’s superior products and design expertise, to ensure a first class system was integrated into the existing pool infrastructure.
“Following a four week install, the system went live in late April 2013 and during the summer months has sustained pool temperatures without recourse to the existing gas boilers. We completed the works making use of our own in house engineers and installation team.
“Cambridge City Council has now successfully applied and been approved for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), and we are currently exploring additional solar sites for CCC to help them achieve their carbon management target”
The Climate Change Officer for Cambridge City Council, says: “As part of our continual commitment to reduce emissions across our estate, we decided to install solar thermal on Abbey Pools because we
see it as an effective means of reducing carbon emissions, as well as reducing energy costs and safe guarding ourselves against future energy prices.
Kingspan Environmental and Sustain Services helped us guarantee the system was eligible for Ofgem’s Renewable Heat Incentive, which ensured we maximised return on our investment.”

Kingspan Solar, part of Kingspan Environmental, offers custom-designed solar packages tailored to meet the needs of each specific application.
Packages include total customer support from initial advice, through to bespoke design/specification, installation, final commissioning and technical support.
The Kingspan Solar range includes both flat plate options (in-roof or on-roof) and Thermomax vacuum tube collectors, together with all required components for the complete installation.
For more information call Kingspan Environmental on 0845 260 0258, or email For more information on Sustain Services go to