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Coal mines in the western region of England will be surveyed in order to determine their potential for renewable energy sources.
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Coal mines in the western region of England will be surveyed in order to determine their potential for renewable energy sources.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Bryn Hawkins was employed in coalmines. He recalls that at that time, not many people were aware of the consequences that burning fossil fuels would have on the environment.

Currently, government officials are optimistic about the possibility of utilizing abandoned mines, which previously supplied millions of tons of fossil fuels, as a potential source of renewable energy nationwide.

The use of warm water from old mine workings 150 meters below Gateshead has been successful for the Gateshead Energy Company, owned by the council. This provides heat and hot water to the town.

Other officials are beginning to recognize the potential of the West of England’s metro mayor, Dan Norris, who is investing £1.5m in the belief that some of the 100-plus mines in Somerset and South Gloucestershire can supply renewable heat to the area.

Black and white picture of the New Rock colliery, including the winding wheelView image in fullscreen

At the event unveiling a new mapping project in Radstock, Somerset, Hawkins, who is 82 years old, expresses enthusiasm for the possibility of repurposing the mines he once worked in to benefit the environment.

He expresses his approval, saying that the issue of the environment has only been brought up in recent years. In the past, the smoke from chimneys was not a concern, but now there is greater awareness and he has gained a better understanding of the situation.

When operational, the mines were drained to allow miners to retrieve coal. However, upon closure, the pumps were shut off and the mines were once again filled with water.

Geothermal energy, derived from the Earth’s core, is used to heat water and in certain locations, the water can reach a temperature of approximately 20C.

According to Dan Mallin Martin, a hydrogeologist working for the Coal Authority, a public organization in charge of mitigating the impacts of previous coal mining, hot water can be brought to the surface through wells or boreholes and then transferred through a heat exchanger to capture its heat.

“Usually, we can extract approximately 5 to 8 degrees Celsius. While this may seem insignificant, it can be significantly increased by passing it through a heat pump, essentially a reversed fridge. This raises the temperature to a usable level, around 60 or 70 degrees Celsius, which can then be distributed to various end users such as homes, businesses, hospitals, and heat networks.”

“That’s an excellent method to utilize that and it can be highly effective. Additionally, it has a low carbon footprint.”

The process does not consume any water overall – meaning it does not remove more water than it uses – because the mine water is returned to the flooded mines and reused.

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Black and white picture of miners walking towards the cameraView image in fullscreen

Mallin Martin emphasized the significance of switching to heat pumps as a sustainable energy source for meeting the heating needs of the UK. He also mentioned that utilizing ground source options and mine water can contribute to reducing carbon emissions, especially when combined with renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind power.

2 per year

The centralised heat pump of Gateshead Energy Company is fueled by a solar farm, resulting in an estimated annual reduction of 1,800 tonnes of CO2 emissions.2 a year.

There are successful cases of this technology being implemented on a global scale. The mine water project in Heerlen, located in the Netherlands, is known as the prime example of this innovation.

Mallin Martin stated that there is a genuine motivation to take advantage of this opportunity and it strongly aligns with the goal of uplifting communities in coalfield areas by providing reliable, nearby, and environmentally-friendly heating options.

Political determination is crucial for many emerging energy solutions. In 2021, Norris, a mayor from a family involved in mining, has allocated £1.5m for a survey to determine the scope of the mine network in Somerset and South Gloucestershire. With this information, the government will focus on the most feasible areas for additional investigations.

2 emissions from mining

The collaboration is incredible, as the mines have contributed to the release of CO2 emissions.2

According to Norris, emissions may be the solution to achieving environmentally friendly energy. He also believes that the heat produced by mines could have both national and worldwide effects.

“The current financial struggles caused by the high cost of living highlight the importance of affordable energy, not only for the less fortunate in our society, but for everyone and businesses alike. Therefore, it is imperative that we find ways to reduce the cost of energy.”

“I am convinced that this method of energy production is not only environmentally significant, but also an affordable means of generating energy to fuel our economy and combat climate change. I am enthusiastic about this prospect.”

Source: theguardian.com