Geothermal energy is an exciting opportunity to rebuild industry in former mining towns. Abandoned coal mines are now filled with water that has been heated by the earth, and this can be extracted as a clean and green way to heat homes and businesses.
To mark the first annual Green GB week, we have worked with Durham Energy Institute to create a video which explains the benefits of geothermal energy and the work Durham University have been doing on this in Spennymoor.
Geothermal Energy could fit beautifully within the UK energy mix alongside other renewables. Unlike wind and solar energy, Geothermal is not intermittent. No matter the weather on the surface, heat can always be pumped from the mine-water reservoirs.
In Iceland, Geothermal Energy comes from volcanic activity and so the water is hot enough to produce steam – generating electricity when harnessed. In the UK, the water isn’t hot enough for steam, but it is well suited for use in heating systems. The water can be pumped up from a mine and send around a district heating system, warming homes and businesses before returning underground for re-use.
Across the UK, we have 23,000 former collieries. Many of these contain water suitable for geothermal energy projects. These sites are treated as a liability for the taxpayer, but there is scope to create a new industry worth £2.5bn a year in towns where jobs and investment are often most needed.
In Spennymoor, County Durham, researchers at Durham Energy Institute have done a feasibility study at a former colliery, and found that there is great potential for geothermal energy in this area. However, the resource is being lost. Many new housing developments are being built on former coalfield sites, including the one at Spennymoor. These sites have the potential to build in heating systems to utilise the heat under our feet, but developers have little incentive to do so. Fitting geothermal systems retrospectively may be more complex and costly than building them into new homes. The time to act is now.
This summer, Labour MP Helen Goodman led a debate on Geothermal Energy. Speaking in Westminster Hall, she summarised: “we will pursue this, because it is important and it could be very productive for this country.”