Six months ago, one of Europe’s largest projects using water from disused coal mines to heat more than 350 homes and businesses was launched in Gateshead, in northern England. Geothermal heating, which has become a symbol of innovation there, serves not only to meet local energy needs, but also promotes the fight against climate change.
Idle mines provide heat for households
In Gateshead, disused coal pits are full of water that heats up through natural geothermal processes to a temperature of about 12-20°C. As a result of deliberate actions, it is pumped to the surface, to the energy node, where it gives up heat to the water from the heating plant circuit. It is then additionally heated in the company’s facilities and transferred through the network to consumers to heat their buildings. In turn, the cooled water from the mine is diverted back underground. The entire process is supported by electricity generated at a nearby photovoltaic farm.
Gateshead, using geothermal heating and related investments, is becoming a leader in low-carbon energy in the UK. The project is soon to be expanded to include another 270 homes, a new conference center and hotel developments, replacing traditional boiler systems.
Local politicians do not hide their satisfaction. “What we have in Gateshead is a legacy from the days of coal mining, which is dirty energy. The addition of mine water to our district heating network is a huge achievement on the road to zero-carbon energy generation. By investing, we are demonstrating the capabilities of this technology.” – says John McElroy, Cabinet Member for the Environment. Environment and Transportation at Gateshead Council.
Expectations and potential across the UK
Geothermal heating is gaining ground not only in Gateshead. Plans call for it to be rolled out across the UK. The country is home to as many as 23,000. Inactive mines, and 25 percent. The population lives above the closed pits, which hold 2.2 million GWh of heated water. This is a huge potential that could make a significant difference in solving Britain’s energy crisis.
Decarbonizing heat is one of the biggest challenges, especially during the transition to a climate-neutral economy. Investments in geothermal can contribute to the government’s ambition to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. The British government’s interest in using geothermal power in former coal mines continues to grow.
Geothermal heating in Gateshead is just the beginning
The Coal Authority, which oversees the former mines on behalf of the government, predicts that there may be enough energy in the flooded, inactive passages to heat all the homes in the coalfields. This could be crucial to the transition to a low-carbon economy. The Authority is currently working with local authorities and partners in England, Scotland and Wales to realize the potential of mine heat across the country.
“We are proud to be part of this revolutionary project. We believe this is a tremendous opportunity that can play a key role in achieving the UK’s emission reduction targets. In addition, it is encouraging to know that communities that played a large role in our industrial past will be an important part of a greener future,” said Richard Bond, a representative of the Coal Authority.
Ambitious plans for the future
New initiatives are on the horizon. In 2021. A group of researchers from The Mine Energy Taskforce and Local Energy Hub have published a white paper calling for greater support for mine energy as a key low-carbon heat source in the UK.
Currently, some 40 different areas in the UK are researching ways to make the most of geothermal heating. With the support of government funds, feasibility studies are conducted to see if projects could be implemented in specific regions.
If the 42 projects identified by the Coal Authority were implemented, carbon savings of 90,500 could be projected. t per year and the creation of more than 15,000. new jobs. Moreover, it would make a multi-million dollar contribution to the economy.
Geothermal heating implemented using closed coal mines is therefore an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional forms of heating, as well as an opportunity to repair the effects of the British Isles’ industrial past. This proves that sustainable development is not only possible, but also beneficial to communities and the economy.
Photo source: Coal Authority, UK