Mark Adair

Things heat up in Gateshead with the construction of UK's biggest mine water project

A brand new £9m low carbon mine water heating system is now complete and ready to provide heat to Gateshead using naturally warmed water from coal mines 150 metres below the town centre.

Gateshead Council has invested in these projects over the past two years, using the expertise of the Coal Authority and with funding from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) – both the Heat Network Investment Programme, and the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

Gateshead has operated its own District Energy Network (DEN) since 2018 through its wholly owned Gateshead Energy Company, but until now the water in the network has been heated solely by gas-powered Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engines. Now mine water will provide up to half the heat required by buildings connected to the network.

Councillor Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said: “I think what is happening here is amazing, because what we have in Gateshead is a legacy from the days of the coal mines, which was dirty energy. Where we were a leader in the industrial revolution 200 years ago, we are now a leader in the green energy revolution of today.”

The mine water scheme forms part of Gateshead Council’s Zero Carbon Heat Strategy, which aims to provide low carbon heating for everyone in the borough whilst reducing greenhouse gases in the environment

The council is also committed to delivering this new heat source affordably with customers’ bills guaranteed to be at least 5 per cent below the market rate.

Owned by the Council and operated by Gateshead Energy Company (GEC) since 2018, the DEN supplies affordable, low carbon heat and power to homes, businesses and public buildings over a 5km private network across Gateshead town centre, including offices such as PROTO and RIGA, cultural venues like Sage Gateshead and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art as well as homes and council offices.

The new arena and conference centre known as The Sage, as well as adjoining hotels, will also be supplied by the network. Both the Council and GEC have committed to achieving Zero Carbon status by 2030, and GEC is investing to achieve this for its energy supplies.

The project is currently in its testing phase, awaiting final permits from authorities and will soon be switched on for consumers to start benefitting ahead of the autumn. Alongside the mine water heat scheme, Gateshead Council has invested £4m in installing two solar parks on brownfield land, totalling 4MW of electricity, which will feed into the District Energy Centre network.

The Council and GEC continue to explore and develop further solutions exploring waste heat and power, hydrogen and deep geothermal which are expected to bring forward further investment and technology post 2025, to support the shared goal of reducing network emissions to net zero by 2030.

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