The prospect of schools and homes in Horden being heated by clean, green geothermal energy moved a step closer this week after extra funding was given to an innovative plan to extract energy from mine water.
Money is being invested in the Horden Minewater project in the hope that the pioneering scheme could pave the way for the people of County Durham to tap into an endless source of heating beneath their feet.
And this month, Horden Minewater received a further £139,500 in funding from the Heat Network Delivery Unit, delivered by the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, to complete the next stage of feasibility and project development works.
The project is being developed in partnership by Durham County Council, Horden Together, the East Durham Trust and Horden Parish Council and will explore how water from former coalmines can be used to heat homes, schools and businesses.
It also has the potential to heat greenhouses to support the growing of food commercially.
For the next stage of the project, the council will continue carrying out investigative work before developing a business case for investment.
While other forms of cheap, renewable energy like wind, solar and air source heat pumps are more familiar to the public, geothermal energy has the potential to be a game changer if it can be successfully collected.
That’s nowhere more the case than in County Durham, which sits on the former Durham coalfield – one of the biggest coalfields in the world.
The water which has since flooded the hundreds of disused mine shafts in the county, is hot enough to provide heating to the people and buildings above, as long as a method of efficient extraction is developed.
And that’s what the Horden Minewater project is seeking to do.
The move is another green step by Durham County Council which is leading the way among North East councils hoping to effectively reach net zero while providing cheap energy and skilled, green jobs at the same time.
Coun Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “This project has the potential to be a game changer for Horden and the surrounding area.
“It would build on our housing and regeneration plans and provide much-needed employment.
“I am absolutely delighted that our continued hard work as a local authority is having such a huge positive impact.
“Heat networks have the potential to provide low cost, low carbon heat to residents and businesses.
“The Horden Minewater project shows County Durham is leading not just regionally but indeed nationally, and even internationally, in our commitment to tackle climate change and create the green jobs of the future.”
In May, the partnership completed a technical feasibility study which found that developing a mine water heat network could reduce carbon emissions associated with heating by 580,704 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime.
That’s the equivalent of driving 265 million miles in an average petrol car!
Since, then the group has been on site visits to Gateshead, Lewes and Leeds to develop its understanding of similar projects and raise the profile of its work.
Graham Easterlow, CEO of East Durham Trust said: “As a key partner in this exciting scheme, East Durham Trust is working with partners like Horden Together and Durham County Council to make sure that benefit for the community of Horden is at the heart of the project.
“This really exciting project provides an opportunity to use the mine water heat for the beginning of a heat network for local high-volume users, such as schools and older adults homes, alongside heating greenhouses.
“It is hoped this will increase skills and provide new jobs in the village.”