Are coalmines able to power homes again?

Amin Al habaibeh
Amin Al habaibeh

Abandoned coalmines in our region could once again provide energy to heat homes, a study has found.

Following two years of research by Nottingham Trent University, water found in disused coalmines has been identified as a new source of renewable energy.

In conjunction with renewable energy firm Alkane Energy, they have established that thermal energy found in groundwater in mines - which is naturally lukewarm due to ground heat - can be condensed and used to heat or cool buildings above the ground.

“In a way we may never have previously envisaged, coalmines could once again be used to provide warmth to thousands of homes across the UK,” said Prof Amin Al-Habaibeh, who led the 
study.

“But the key difference between yesteryear and tomorrow is that we now have the ability to harness their energy potential in a completely sustainable way.”

The technology is based on the use of a ground source heat pump system which takes the water from the mineshaft and pumps it to the surface where he latent thermal energy is extracted using a heat exchanger.

Thereafter a heat pump is used to produce a much higher temperature than the original mine water by condensing the energy and circulating it in a separate central heating-type system.

The cooler groundwater is then returned to the mine where it becomes lukewarm again via ground heat.

For the purposes of the study, the Coal Authority provided Alkane Energy with permission to 
explore redundant mines over a 30km area with the potential to produce enough energy to heat around 45,000 homes.