Surging demand for enormous heat pumps on the rise

German company MAN Energy Solutions (MAN ES) has developed a massive heat pump that can heat an Olympic-sized swimming pool from 20°C to boiling point in less than four hours. 

This innovative heat pump, one of the largest in the world, works by compressing warmed refrigerants to raise the temperature of fluids, which can then be used for heating homes or industrial machinery. 

While heat pumps require electricity to function, they can produce three to four kilowatt hours of heat for every kilowatt hour of power consumed.

While heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular among homeowners, domestic devices are relatively small and have limited output. On the other hand, MAN ES’s commercial heat pump boasts a heating capacity of 48 megawatts (MW) and can heat thousands of homes simultaneously. 

The company has recently installed two of these colossal machines in Esbjerg, Denmark, where they utilize seawater to provide up to 90°C water to a district heating system serving 27,000 households.

The demand for district heating is growing rapidly, driven by the urgency to move away from fossil fuels. Larger and more powerful heat pump systems are being sought to cater to this demand. 

Determining the largest heat pump system in terms of megawatts is challenging due to variations in operational capacities. 

For instance, Stockholm’s district heating system, often considered the largest, consists of seven heat pumps with a maximum capacity of 215MW. Meanwhile, Gothenburg boasts a 160MW heat pump system with four units, two of which are larger than those in Stockholm.

Heat pumps are also gaining traction for industrial applications, such as heating pharmaceuticals, food, and paper factories. 

Heat pumps offer an efficient alternative to natural gas, which has become costly due to geopolitical tensions. 

Furthermore, district heating systems powered by heat pumps are being implemented to decarbonize numerous households simultaneously.

Exciting developments in heat pump technology continue to emerge. For instance, Vienna plans to launch a 55MW district heating system that harnesses heat from treated wastewater, providing warmth to 56,000 households. 

In the future, Helsinki aims to construct a colossal heat pump system with a capacity of 500MW, though details of its configuration remain undisclosed. MAN ES is among the contenders vying for the project, expressing hopes of securing the contract.

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