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Abandoned coal mines could soon heat homes in Wales

A new project worth £450,000 will investigate whether water from disused mines could be used to supply energy across Wales in the future.

When coal mines in Wales were closed down the pumps keeping them dry were turned off, meaning they soon filled with water again.

Now the Coal Authority, with government funding, will be able to explore whether this water, heated through geological processes, could heat homes, businesses and industry.

Welsh Climate Change Minister Julie James said: ‘Improving the energy efficiency of homes is essential as we front up to the climate emergency and build a stronger, greener and fairer Wales.

‘To get there, we need to think innovatively and ensure we meet out renewable energy needs of the future, so I’m looking forward to hearing what the Coal Authority discover as part of their work.

‘It’s very exciting that communities could be metres from a technology-ready alternative to traditional heating methods that could help us towards our journey to a Net Zero Wales by 2050.’

The project will involve the mapping out of sites to see where there is potential and detailed feasibility studies to consider how these mines could be connected to buildings and new developments.

Heat from mine water provides a low carbon, sustainable alternative to gas, offering carbon savings of up to 75%, and could compete with public supply gas prices.

Currently, around 40% of energy produced in Wales goes towards heating homes, businesses and industry, with most generated by gas power plants.

However, the Welsh government has committed to ensuring there are no gas connections in new build homes by 2025, as part of decarbonisation efforts.

There are also aims to shift the entire public sector to carbon neutrality by 2030 and this project could be key to achieving this, providing new employment and manufacturing opportunities too.

Warm water from a natural thermal spring in Taff’s Well already provides heating to a nearby park pavilion and local primary school, showing how the process could work.

Cllr. Tina Leyshon, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Corporate Services, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council said: ‘We’re excited at the possibility that this same type of technology may be used to capture heat also found in the flooded mines across south Wales, so deep they are also heated by geological processes.

‘The Taff’s Well Thermal Spring Project is one we’re very proud of. The project to explore the potential for this technology across the mines network will hopefully play an important part in ensuring the long-term energy security of our communities.’

Photo by Taton Moïse

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