INCINERATORS are not the first machines that spring to mind when it comes to saving the planet.

But now councillors are considering ways of converting steam from the burner at Ardley into heat for Bicester’s planned eco town.

Cherwell District Council has applied for a £144,000 Government grant to carry out a feasibilty study to use steam from the Ardley incinerator to heat the proposed 6,000 homes and businesses.

Steam is a by-product of the process of the incinerator, which will burn up to 300,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste and generate enough electricity for the National Grid to power more than 38,000 homes.

Heat from incinerators is usually discharged into the atmosphere because homes are not close enough to use it, and laying pipes would be too expensive.

But because the eco town is about two miles from the Ardley plant, the council wants to find out if it is feasible to capture the steam and pipe it into Bicester.

And the scheme could have the potential to heat other buildings in the town.

The council say if the grant is approved, the research would take about 18 months.

A council spokesman said: “The Ardley waste plant will produce heat as a by-product that is not needed and therefore could potentially be used to provide heating for nearby buildings.

“The council is interested to exploring if there would be advantages in the use of this heat in NW Bicester and other locations in the town.”

NW Bicester project director Steve Hornblow, of eco town developer A2Dominion, said: “When Ardley is commissioned, there will be large amounts of waste heat that can either be dumped, or maybe someone can make use of that heat.

“NW Bicester are the closest potential users but we are looking at whether it could be possible to pipe the heat to other parts of the town.

“If it is possible to make use of that heat, it means we won’t have to burn fossil fuel gas so it is a better environmental option.

“At this stage we don’t know if it would be commercially viable.

“Our consultant team is analysing the options and once we have concluded upon the most appropriate we will approach the major utility companies.

“We are considering this among a number of other options and once these are finessed we will move forward the most appropriate solution.”

Viridor, which will operate the incinerator, was unavailable for comment.

At this stage neither the council or eco town developer is working with an energy firm on the project.

Similar schemes are used across Europe. The world’s biggest is in Copenhagen, Denmark, where pipes stretch 50km (30 miles) and energy from waste supplies 30 per cent of its heat.