Advocates claim enough geothermal energy in abandoned coal mines to heat 180m homes. The weed-lined disused road beside Lanchester Wines’ ageing warehouse on a north-east England industrial estate could not be more low key. But beneath the roadway’s many manhole covers are shafts which descend 200m into what could be the UK’s most widespread unused energy source – minewater. Lanchester Wines’ facility in Gateshead has by far the UK’s biggest commercial minewater heating scheme. It supplies all the warehouse’s needs, keeping millions of bottles of wine temperate, and also heats a neighbouring distribution depot. Advocates of using minewater for heating regard it as having particularly significant potential after the UK set the ambitious goal earlier this year of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A quarter of all UK homes and businesses, some 9m buildings, and most of its largest cities outside London sit on former coalfields. Coal mining, which employed 1.25m people at its peak, powered the British economy for well over a century but the last deep mine closed in 2015. One of its underground legacies is the warrens of galleries through which run an estimated 2bn cubic metres of water, heated by surrounding rocks to 12-16 degrees Celsius. At present, minewater is a problem. Often high in iron and pollutants and potentially a threat to drinking water and rivers, its management by the publicly funded Coal Authority cost £18m last year. Yet Lisa Pinney, the authority’s chief executive, said minewater “could be a real contribution to zero carbon”. Opportunities she cited included horticulture, new housing and leisure schemes. According to Coal Authority data, heating currently accounts for 45 per cent of the country’s energy use and 32 per cent of its emissions. Meeting the government’s net zero carbon emissions target will require slashing fossil fuel use. Three extraction shafts outside the warehouse raise 39 litres of minewater a second to the surface using an open loop water source heat pump system. The minewater travels by pipe around the plant room into a heat exchanger. Here, the minewater heat boils liquid ammonia, concentrating the ammonia’s heat at 50 degrees C. This heat is then used to warm water which circulates around the factory’s heating system. Meanwhile the minewater, above ground for only two minutes, is sent back underground to warm up again. Now the 60-year-old Gateshead warehouse has a 2.4MW system yielding 6KW of heat for each kilowatt of electricity used. Its installation has brought the company its first payment, of £117,000 payment, under the government’s renewable heat incentive scheme. The company’s other nearby warehouse, which has hit an even better minewater supply yielding 67 litres a second, will within weeks start operating its own heating scheme. Mr Black expects payback on the £3.5m investment, part of £8m spent on renewable energy to make the company carbon neutral, within seven years. In Bridgend, in south Wales, the local authority is working with scientists to develop a minewater heating network for a local community. And in Durham the county council has invited tenders for heating a leisure centre swimming pool using minewater. Mike Stephenson, the BGS’s chief scientist, said the Glasgow studies were focusing on “de-risking” minewater heat use and that the research should be sufficiently advanced to enable investment decisions in two years. “The wonderful irony here is we used coal to carbonise the economy,” he said. “Now we are going to use the coal mines that exist to decarbonise.”
An ambitious plan has been unveiled to create up to 1,000 jobs in Workington as a firm explores the next generation of nuclear new build. TSP Engineering, based at Derwent Howe, is designing cutting edge technology to make nuclear energy cheaper and easier. It is working with Professor Janne Wallenius, of Stockholm, on the innovative project. Prof Wallenius has over 20 years of nuclear engineering experience, and has joined the specialist manufacturer for six months to design new, miniature nuclear reactors, which would be built at TSP’s Workington facility. John Coughlan, chief executive of TSP Engineering, said: “This is a game-changer, a chance to be a disruptor in the marketplace. “These advanced nuclear reactors would be built at TSP as a single unit then shipped to where they need to be installed. “When you look at Moorside costing £10 billion and taking 10 years to build, these will cost, we think, around £150 million each and be built quicker. You’ll need four or five of them in a single location. It’s cheaper and quicker than the new builds previously proposed.” Mr Coughlan added: “The market for nuclear energy will change. It will go from energy firms like EDF to firms like BP and Shell as electric vehicles begin to become more popular and more people swap their existing vehicles for ones with cleaner energy.” He added that the export potential was enormous. He said: “It is so important that the UK gets behind this – this will change the international landscape and international sales could be numerous. We have the potential to make hundreds of these reactors.”
Carlisle News & Star 18th Aug 2019
Dundee is now at the vanguard of the switch to zero-carbon transport. It already boasts the largest number of electric minicabs anywhere in the UK (134 at the last count), a council-owned network of four solar-powered charging hubs capable of taking 78 cars at a time (with sites for another 60 being built) and the highest number of rapid chargers of any Scottish city. In a few days it will open a rooftop charging hub – solar-powered, of course – at a city-centre multistorey. Despite the Scottish government’s boasts about its charging network, Scotland’s drivers have been slow to take up electric vehicles. Official sales figures show that while Scotland has 8.5% of the UK’s population, only 5.8% of the UK’s ultra-low-emission cars are registered in Scotland. That’s 11,607, out of a total of 2.5m cars in Scotland. Meanwhile, bus use has been in long-term decline and CO2 emissions from transport continue to grow. Environment campaigners welcome the shift to electric vehicles, but John Lauder, the deputy chief executive of the sustainable travel charity Sustrans, said far greater effort was needed to cut overall private car use, not just to switch from fossil fuels. “Electric vehicles are not always carbon neutral, they will not tackle congestion in our towns and cities, they will not improve road safety and they will do nothing to deal with the obesity crisis facing Scotland,” he said. “We need to see a sizeable reduction in shorter urban journeys by car, and we have existing technologies that can be scaled up and rolled out in a far shorter timescale: walking and cycling.”
A council-owned solar farm has smashed generation targets in its third year of operation, taking its overall income to £4 million. The 12.4MW solar farm at Toggam Farm in Lakenheath generated 12,631MWh of electricity in the past year, surpassing its target of 11,591MWh. This saw West Suffolk Council receive an income of £1.5 million from the farm, £100,000 more than expected. The income – its highest from the farm – came from a combination of selling electricity to the grid and income from Renewable Obligation Certificates.
Hundreds of Asda supermarket stores will help power the UK’s electricity system this winter by using their fridges as a virtual battery pack for the energy grid. Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain has signed up 300 stores and 18 distribution depots to schemes which can earn the grocery giant extra revenue while helping to balance the electricity grid. Under the long-term deal with National Grid the supermarket’s nationwide networks of freezer aisles and storage fridges will make up a 13-megawatt power source – enough energy to power about 8,500 homes. Asda has also signed up to a trial which could mean its fridges are called on at only 10 minutes’ notice to act as a safety net if there is an unexpected power station outage. National Grid pays out about £1bn worth of contracts through its energy capacity market. Most are awarded to power plants so they are ready to ramp up their generation but they can also be given to companies which can cut their electricity use to help reduce overall demand on the grid. The supermarket is working with Flexitricity, a specialist Edinburgh-based energy firm, which uses technology to aggregate the energy potential of companies across the country. Flexitricity hopes that by creating a virtual battery across its portfolio of clients it can bid for National Grid contracts which would earn the companies extra revenue while cutting carbon emissions.