Heating reimagined: heat pumps for building decarbonization


Industrial heat pumps are revolutionizing the way we heat buildings. With the ability to produce temperatures of up to 150C, these robust systems have become a sustainable solution for across the globe. As the demand for carbon-free heating increases, the shift away from fossil fuels is finally gaining momentum.

Vicinity is diving into the world of heat pumps

Vicinity is entering a new era of sustainability and installing heat pumps as a cutting-edge technology that provides a carbon-free heating solution to our customers and aligns with ambitious emissions reduction goals nationwide.

In April 2023, Vicinity announced our partnership with MAN Energy Solutions, a trailblazer hailing from Augsburg, Germany. This dynamic collaboration will reshape our understanding of sustainability as we develop low-temperature source heat pump systems for eSteam™ generation. These plans are already in motion as we look ahead to 2026 when Vicinity’s Kendall facility in Cambridge will be home to Massachusetts’s largest industrial-scale heat pump complex.

Drawing inspiration from heat pump successes in Europe, this venture will create ripples on a national scale and serve as a testament to Boston’s commitment to shaping a greener future. Powered by renewable electricity, Vicinity’s heat pump complex will safely and efficiently harvest energy from the Charles River, returning it at a lower temperature.

With the heating sector responsible for a staggering 30 to 40% of global CO2 emissions, the time to implement sustainable energy solutions is now. Vicinity’s sustainability plans mirror the examples set by cities like Glasgow, Scotland, and Drammen, Norway, where water-source heat pumps have already made their mark. The first water-source heat pump that emerged in Glasgow in 2021 is three times more efficient than natural gas boilers and allows the city to tap into the renewable power of the River Clyde, just as Vicinity will do in with the Charles River in Cambridge, MA.

How will Vicinity’s heat pump complex work?

Vicinity is transforming district energy in the cities we operate in by installing an industrial-scale heat complex. By 2026, this complex will be operational at our Kendall facility, and installation in other systems in cities like Philadelphia and Kansas City will follow.

This innovative heat pump will draw heat from nearby water sources to generate steam and improve the system’s efficiency. The technology functions similarly to an air conditioning system, only it accomplishes the reverse on a much grander scale. Ensuring that the river and its ecosystems remain unharmed, the river intake system lifts heat from the river and brings it into our facilities.

Since most of this heat is transported rather than generated, heat pumps are much more efficient than traditional heating methods such as natural gas boilers and heaters, resulting in lower operational costs for building owners.

So, how are our plans progressing? Today, we are designing our Kendall Square facility in partnership with Germany-based MAN Energy Solutions. The heat pump will occupy a space of approximately 25,000 sq ft., and it will circulate through 24.5 million – 49 million gallons of water from the Charles River each day, returning the water to the river at a lower temperature.

Early design of the industrial-scale heat pump Vicinity Energy is developing in partnership with MAN Energy Solutions.

Our systems will also employ electric boilers and molten salt thermal battery storage to fully decarbonize our footprint. Leveraging our existing system of underground steam pipes, we will seamlessly provide our customers with carbon-free eSteam™. Our first electric boiler will enter service in Cambridge in 2024.

District energy systems are agile. By replacing fossil fuel infrastructure with industrial-scale technologies such as heat pumps, we can effectively decarbonize our communities without retrofitting or installing new electrical infrastructure in our customers’ buildings.

Learn more about our electrification plan in our white paper.

Vicinity Energy White Paper - Revolutionizing Urban Sustainability

Bella Pace

Isabella Pace is a Marketing Specialist for Vicinity Energy and is based in Boston, Massachusetts. She writes about topics related to decarbonization, district energy, and creating a clean energy future.