More than 1,000 new homes in Gateshead could get cheap and clean power after the town secured multimillion-pound funding to take hot water from former mine workings.
Gateshead Council has been awarded a Government grant of almost £6m to double the size of its heat network in Gateshead town centre.
The Heat Networks Investment Project grant of £5.9m will enable the Gateshead Energy Company to install 5.5km of new heating pipes to the east of the town centre, potentially supplying heat to 1,250 new houses, as well as a care home, Gateshead International Stadium and other council-owned buildings in Felling.
The funding will also help to install a 6MW water source heat pump, which will extract heat from the water in underground mine workings 150 metres beneath Gateshead town centre. The council is working with the Coal Authority who manage all the disused mine workings under Gateshead to ensure the success of the project.
Homes on the Freightliner site, which is close to the District Energy Centre, could benefit from the scheme, along with the site of the former Chandless Estate.
Coun John McElroy, Gateshead Council cabinet member with responsibility for energy, said: “The council has always seen the development of low-carbon energy as key to meeting our climate change goals, but also in generating lower-cost energy for residents and organisations in Gateshead. This grant allows us to take this one step further.
“This new proposal uses a source of energy that is already under our feet but which is virtually unused. Thanks to the continued development of heat pump technology, we are at last able to properly exploit this abundant untapped heat source and use it to warm thousands of homes and businesses in Gateshead.
“We have been looking at this proposal for some considerable time, so the award of this grant is timely and its means we can now begin to bring it to fruition.”
He added: “There must be hundreds of miles of abandoned mine workings beneath Gateshead and many of them are flooded providing access to a sustainable source of heat, so there is huge scope for more initiatives like this.
“It is particularly satisfying that we can exploit the forgotten remains of an old industry – and a heavily polluting one at that – to create clean green energy.”
The scheme is one of four projects around the country that have been awarded nearly £25m of Government funding.
Ken Hunnisett, project director at Triple Point Heat Networks Investment Management, said: “Mine energy would seem to be ideally suited to district heating. At a time when we have great cause to reflect on our domestic resilience, the ability of our coalfields to provide clean, affordable, perpetually renewing heat should be a source of great national pride.
“The Gateshead network alone will deliver 1,300 tones CO2 savings per year over the first 15 years. Interest in mine water energy as a heat source for district heating networks in England and Wales is strong and growing with other projects committed to using this invaluable natural resource already in our pipeline.”
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