AN INTERACTIVE map has illuminated the heat still stored in abandoned coal mines, which could be used to heat homes once again.
According to the Coal Authority around a quarter of the UK’s population live above an abandoned mine with many of them in Lancashire, particularly around the Burnley coalfield area, which was once home to thriving mining communities.
Now, an online map created by the Coal Authority and the British Geological Survey aims to help people see for themselves were these mines once were.
Project leader and geoscientist Gareth Farr said: “This has been a very exciting piece of work, it’s the first time we have been able to visualise the temperature of Britain’s coalfields.
“We have found records of heat temperatures going back over 100 years and compared them to temperatures in the mines now and found them to be quite similar.
“This is a clear indication that geothermal processes that create this heat will be here for a long time to come.
“Combined with other layers of data, the maps provide an important groundwork for developers, local authorities and scientists to explore new mine water heating schemes, and we are hopeful they will be of value to inform policy decision making.”
The heat stored in the mines will also be of practical use, with government aiming to increase the number of homes on heat networks from 2% to 18% by 2050.
As such, it is recognised that geothermal energy from mines, combined with heat pump technology, could provide a sustainable energy source for these networks that is both local and low cost.
The warm water in abandoned coal mines is now viewed as a viable new form of sustainable energy with the potential to play a vital role in making homes and public buildings greener, warmer and more energy efficient.
Technical specialists at the Coal Authority say there is potential to kick-start a new renewable industry, creating employment, tackling climate change and attracting investment to the coalfield communities previously disadvantaged by mine closures.
Coal Authority head of innovation Jeremy Crooks said: “When miners were working in hot, dusty conditions, they would not have known that their efforts and the heat they worked in, would one day create a sustainable source of energy for hundreds of years to come.
“We are currently reviewing over thirty potential heat network opportunities using geothermal mine energy.
He added: “It’s ironic that mining coal, a fossil fuel, would provide access to a low carbon, clean air, energy source that will last far longer than the 200 years of intensive mining that created this opportunity.
“The maps we’ve jointly produced is a visual indication of how real and exciting this opportunity is.”
To view the map, go to: https://mapapps2.bgs.ac.uk/coalauthority/home.html.