The Dawdon coal mine in north-east England was abandoned three decades ago, but it is coming back to life as the unlikely setting for a green energy revolution.

The carbon-intensive coal mine, near the town of Seaham on the windswept northeast coast of England, carried coal from deep underground until it closed in 1991.

Dawdon has long been inundated with water as part of the mine sits below sea level and is heated by geothermal energy.

The authorities now want to capture and harness this precious and unlimited source of green energy to power a new garden village development.

“The heat comes mostly from the ground,” said Mark Wilkes, head of Durham County Council, whose portfolio includes climate change.

The deep water inside the mine warms underground to around 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit).

At the entrance to the colliery, where thousands of miners once rushed to work, the vast pipes of a wastewater treatment plant now suck the equivalent of a bath of hot water every two seconds, which is used for heating. a separate water supply.

In turn, this water circuit is heated via a pump until it reaches 55-60 degrees Celsius.

The plant treats highly acidic and ferrous water to prevent contamination of local beaches and water supplies.

Its heat will eventually supply local homes, while the treated water will be discharged into the sea.

– The industrial revolution goes green –

“We are taking what was the industrial revolution – and we are using it for the green revolution,” Wilkes told AFP.

The heat from the water has so far only been used for heating the installation.

But in two years, the town will create a new village of 1,500 homes nearby, fully heated by the power plant.

“It is an unlimited source of energy: water is flowing all the time,” Wilkes added.

“There are costs with technology, but hopefully it will help keep those costs at the top in the future.”

It is the first geothermal project on such a large scale in Britain, and Wilkes hopes it could heat neighboring businesses as well.

Britain is heavily dependent on natural gas for power generation, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the COP26 climate summit next month in Glasgow, wants to shift all UK energy production to renewable sources by 2035 to help achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The urgency of the move was underscored by a surge in gas prices last week to record levels, fueled by the reopening of economies after coronavirus shutdowns and fears of increased demand over the coming winter. in the northern hemisphere.

Durham County Council has yet to name the company that will operate and partially finance the Dawdon plant.

Geothermal heating will not be free, but authorities hope it will be cheaper than gas.

– Fairly low carbon –

“The heat pump uses an electrical input,” said Charlotte Adams, mining energy manager at the UK Coal Authority industry body, which oversees the old mines.

“So it’s not carbon neutral, but it’s energy efficient.

“But as you can imagine, over time the carbon content of electricity decreases, as we decarbonize our electricity supply.

“So over time you get closer to something that’s pretty low in carbon.”

The process is four times more energy efficient than a pure electric heating system, Adams said.

The Dawdon green power project will cost between £ 12m and £ 15m, funded by the government, the plant’s future operating company and property royalties.

ode / rfj / phz / tgb

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