“An exciting prospect,” is how councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Oldham Liberal Democrat Group Leader, described the recent revelation by the Government’s advisory Climate Change Committee that up to 18% of all of Britain’s heat could in future come from disused coal mines amongst other sources.
The committee has just reported that waste heat from abandoned mines, industrial plants, data centres and sewage works could be redirected through district heating schemes to warm up to one fifth of all the UK’s homes, hospitals, schools and offices. Almost 40% of all Britain’s carbon footprint comes from burning gas for heating.
Such a scheme for Oldham town centre would represent the vision that councillor Sykes first suggested to the Leader at the Oldham Council meeting in October 2014.
“At that time, a certain Labour Cabinet Member was very dismissive of the idea, but to me it represented common sense,” said councillor Sykes. “Anyone who has visited the Square Knott photographic panorama in Gallery Oldham will see that in our Victorian town centre there were several coal mines scattered amongst the houses, pubs and shops, and across Oldham we operated coal mines to power our cotton mills.”
Floodwater in abandoned coal mines is heated by the Earth’s core, and the heat can be extracted using pumps to supply district heating schemes.
“Coal mine water heat represents a low-carbon source of energy and it is there ready to be extracted,” added councillor Sykes. “Ironically it is a green source of energy derived from a past activity that once polluted our environment that could be used to heat the many new homes planned for Oldham town centre.”
Councillor Sykes is hoping the recent good news about the Oldham Council’s Towns Fund bid will mean the project can go ahead. He concluded: “Oldham has just been awarded £24.4 million. Although this is only over half of the £41 million we asked for, it is nonetheless a substantial sum.”
“Part of Oldham’s bid involved financing exploratory work on a coal mine heat scheme in our town centre. I hope now the Labour Administration will prioritise this project as it will represent a significant and exciting step forward in helping to make our borough greener.”