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Britain's Old Coal Mines Now Provide Green Energy

Millions of Brits live above or close to abandoned coal mines, and one in north east England has been providing green energy to homes and businesses for the last six months.


The inside of a mine water treatment plant
The inside of a mine water treatment plant | Coal Authority

Britain’s deep coal mines have become a surprising source of green energy. Once at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, north-east England is now leading the way on this alternative energy source.


Just outside Newcastle, Gateshead Council’s mine water project launched in March this year and now has a large central heat pump that provides low-carbon heating to 350 high-rise buildings, an art gallery, a college, an industrial park, and several office buildings.


Hailed a success, the UK’s first large-scale network shows the huge potential to be found in the nation’s sprawling warren of old mining tunnels, which sit beneath roughly a quarter of homes.


The long abandoned coal mine in Gateshead became flooded and the water was then naturally heated by the Earth’s core - creating a valuable geothermal energy source. At certain depths, mine water can sit at a scorching 45°C (100° F) and Gateshead Council’s facility then pumps the water into heat pumps which further raises the temperature, and is used to heat both domestic and commercial buildings.


Part of the minewater heat project infrastructure in Gateshead, UK
Part of the minewater heat project infrastructure in Gateshead | Coal Authority

After the heat is expended, the water is simply pumped back down to the mine where it’s naturally reheated. As it's heated by the Earth's core, the water isn’t affected by the winter or the summer, and the water can also be used to cool homes.


Gareth Farr, head of heat and by-product innovation at the Coal Authority, told Euronews: “Recovering heat from mine water below the ground within abandoned coal mines provides an exciting opportunity to generate a low carbon, secure supply of heat, benefitting people living or working in buildings on the coalfields.”


While the Gateshead project is the largest in Europe, it’s not the first. Similar repurposing of coal mine water facilities have already been established in The Netherlands, Spain, and Canada. Hopefully, with many more to follow.

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