It is a process which has aroused controversy around the country, but a West academic believes that using heat from crematoria to produce electricity will soon become widely accepted.
Dr John Troyer, from the University of Bath’s Centre for Death & Society, has been researching the possibility for more than a year and says that one day the heat could potentially produce enough energy to sell back to the National Grid.
He will discuss his findings at the Knowledge Escalator Project South West conference at Somerset County Cricket Club in Taunton next Tuesday.
Taunton Deane Borough Council has already decided to pursue the idea of harnessing excess heat that would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere, and a growing number of other crematoria owners across the country are considering similar measures. Cardiff and Redditch councils have proposed using the energy to heat council buildings, including a swimming pool.
The Cardiff and Redditch proposals met with resistance from some locals but Dr Troyer says transparency is the key to making them possible and believes that in future savings of up to £20,000 could be generated by some crematoria.
Taunton Deane has stressed that the energy would be recovered from the crematorium flue gases not from the deceased.
A heat recovery system, due to be installed at the end of this year, would save enough heat to warm the Taunton crematorium’s offices and chapel – and save around £2,400 a year in running costs. Dr Troyer’s findings follow studies at Haycombe Cemetery and Crematorium in Bath. The research has been funded by The Knowledge Escalator Project.
The fillings in our teeth play a key part in the story, for the Government has ordered that the mercury emissions which are produced when fillings are cremated must be reduced. As crematoria install new equipment to meet these regulations other changes to allow seperate heat recovery could also be made.
Dr Troyer, an American, and the son of a funeral director, points out that cremation itself was a controversial when it was first promoted more than a century ago. In 1874 Surgeon Sir Henry Thompson promoted cremation as a sanitary precaution. The Cremation society was founded but the Home Secretary refused to approve cremations until Parliament sanctioned the process.
Undaunted in 1882 Captain Hanham from Blandford erected a crematorium on his own estate.
Of recycling excess heat Dr Troyer, said: “Introducing changes like this can cause initial shock, but like other changes I think it will soon become part of the funeral process and widely accepted. If the body is buried there is a transfer of energy, but it is a much slower form.
“What this represents is a significant new way in thinking about the dead body and how it is taken care of.”