Geothermally heated water from old mine to heat homes in Wales

A Welsh village is planning to use geothermally heated water from a disused mine to power the central heating in nearby homes.

The scale of the scheme will be the first of its kind in the UK and would use existing radiators to heat around 150 homes without mine-water ever entering residents’ properties.

Such schemes are relatively new, with Holland opening the world’s first mine-water power station in 2008 in the town of Heerlen – a Dutch coal-mining area that closed its last mine in the 1970s.

The findings of a feasibility study to determine if the water is warm enough to heat homes are expected by the end of February.

This follows test drilling into the mine workings under the Old Brewers site in Caerau, near Bridgend, which found that the mining void is full of water to a depth of 230m.

The British Geological Survey has since been testing the temperature, chemistry and volume of the mining-water, with the temperature expected to be around 20.6 degrees Celsius – warm enough for the scheme to be a success.

On Friday, cabinet secretary for energy, planning and rural affairs Lesley Griffiths said the Welsh Government had awarded the project £6.5m in EU funds.

“Our ambition is for our nation to be a world leader in pioneering low-carbon energy,” she said. “This is a cutting-edge model of generating a clean source of renewable energy, drawing on the legacy of our coal-mining heritage.”

Griffiths said the project would hopefully attract further investment to the area while addressing fuel poverty by cutting energy bills, and has the potential to be rolled out to Wales and beyond.

She added: “This EU-funded scheme will also create jobs both within the initial construction period and the ongoing supply chain, as well as offering training and educational opportunities in a very innovative area.”

Councillor Richard Young, Bridgend County Borough Council’s cabinet member for communities, said it was the volume and temperature of the water at the site that made the scheme possible.

“The next phase is to work through the full scope of the scheme and put everything in place to deliver a trailblazing project for the Llynfi Valley,” he said.

While the initial heat network will involve 150 properties and the nearby school and church, there may be potential for the scheme to warm up to a thousand local homes, a spokeswoman for the Welsh Government added.

Findings from the feasibility study will be shared with Caerau residents in an exhibition planned for spring, while construction is expected to start in 2020.

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