Water Energy Innovators Tap Coal Mines For Thermal Heat

Though abandoned coal mines are not typically known for the environmental benefits they offer, a project in the U.K. shows how that is quickly changing.

“Britain’s deep coal mines have become a surprising source of green energy, one that’s been heating the town of Gateshead successfully for six months,” Good News Network reported. “Inundated by flood waters that became heated by the Earth’s core, Britain suddenly had a semi-naturally occurring geothermal energy source to harvest.”

To make the most of this natural resource, Gateshead Council installed a central heat pump to harvest the warmth and provide low-carbon heating to more than 300 high-rise buildings, offices, a college, and numerous local businesses.

“The renewable energy use here involves pumping the water into home heat pumps which further raises the temperature,” according to Good New Network. “Huge advantages come with this kind of heating, including the fact that the water isn’t affected by the winter or the summer, and the water can also be used to cool homes.”

Wastewater treatment professionals might be surprised to hear about a project that invites the water sitting in abandoned coal mines into homes and businesses. For many sites in America, that wastewater poses an acute water quality threat.

But Gateshead isn’t the only project leveraging the benefits of water found deep underground. Similar reclaimed coal mine water projects have been established in the Netherlands, Spain, and Canada as well.

“The world’s first mine water power station opened in the Dutch city of Heerlen in 2008,” per Euronews. “It is now connected to around 500 houses and commercial facilities — cutting the area’s carbon emissions from heating by almost two thirds. A similar project is underway in the rugged Asturias region of northern Spain, where flooded coal shafts are heating (and cooling) a hospital, university and numerous other buildings.”

Though Europe and the U.S. have a complicated legacy of coal mining that has left both regions riddled with abandoned caverns, it seems that pioneering energy products are giving those legacies forward-thinking makeovers.

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