£1.6 million for plan to drill for heat from mines

A PROJECT to use the Emersons Green area’s old coal mines to provide renewable energy has £1.6 million of funding earmarked to start drilling.

The Voice reported earlier this year that South Gloucestershire Council was investigating whether the water in flooded abandoned mine workings, which is naturally heated by geothermal energy, could be used to heat and cool buildings in the area.

Abandoned works stretching under Lyde Green, Emersons Green and Shortwood, where the Parkfield, Brandy Bottom and Shortwood collieries were in use up until the 1930s, are among those identified as “areas of interest” by the government’s Coal Authority.

The process would involve using pumps to raise the temperature of the water to the level required for heating and hot water, and use it above ground as a climate-friendly alternative to gas boilers, in homes and larger buildings.

It could also be used for cooling in the summer, proponents of the idea believe.

So far only £10,000 has been spent on the Coal Authority’s initial examination of potential “areas of interest” for the project.

But now the plan has been allocated £1.65m from the West of England Green Recovery Fund, after the region’s political leaders agreed to increase the fund by £10m to £60m at a meeting on March 17.

The cash allocated to the project by the West of England Combined Authority would pay for further studies, including drilling investigative boreholes in “up to six high potential areas”, to see how dated records of mines match up with the reality underground.

A report to WECA said that if the concept could be turned into a financially viable source of renewable heat, it could then attract commercial investment to build a system that could serve anything from 20 to 60,000 homes.

Further funding for the project will be sought from other sources.

West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris said it was “ironic” that coal mines could be one solution to climate change.

Mr Norris said: “This is the biggest challenge we face as a region, as a nation and as a planet.

“I can’t think of anything that would be more fantastic than to think what had contributed to carbon dioxide emissions over hundreds of years was then able to turn around and reduce them.”

South Gloucestershire Council leader Toby Savage said: “We have extensive mining heritage in parts of the district, with over 40 coal seams and over 1,000 different mine entrances.

“The next stage of the project is to identify the scale of the potential heat and cooling demand within the broad areas of search.”

Meeting report by Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service