A positive story about coal mines
(Image by Angela from Pixabay)

A positive story about coal mines

Could abandoned coal mines be a useful energy source to heat our homes? Local politicians in the west of England, working with the Coal Authority (the public body that manages the effects of historic coal mining) believe so.

The principle is simple. Using the water in the now flooded mines as a heat source, combined with a heat exchanger and heat pumps, means we can generate hot water (up to 60 or even 70 degrees C). This can then be used to heat homes, businesses and public buildings.

The technology is already well established. Local politicians only need to head up a few hundred miles to Gateshead to see a project already in operation. This is a 6MW mine water heat pump, largely powered by solar. And of course many of you will have similar projects nearby, with district heating using heat pumps (now on its 5th generation of development) being widely used across much of Northern Europe.

Given that many parts of the world have abandoned (and flooded) mines, why are we not seeing more applications of this technology? One explanation is possibly a poor understanding of how heat pumps work. Heat pumps appear to many people to defy the laws of physics - creating 60-70 degree C hot water from a 15-20 C degree heat source. Which in turn leads many of them to 'assume' that they don't work in cold climates. But then they don't bother to talk to people in Finland, which gets very cold in winter. And where heat pumps are widely and successfully used.

And it's not only abandoned coal mines that can provide a heat source. We can also use our wastewater (sewerage to you and I) system. Back in May 2023 we wrote about a project in Vienna to heat 56,000 homes using domestic wastewater as a heat source 👉🏾

This article featured in What Caught Our Eye, a weekly email featuring stories we found particularly interesting during the week and why. We also give our lateral thought on each one. What Caught our Eye is available to read in full by members.

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Please read: important legal stuff.


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