A £450,000 project will explore whether water from disused mines has the potential to play a vital role in Wales’ energy supply for years to come.
The mines in Wales played a crucial role in sparking the Industrial Revolution, but once abandoned the pumps that kept them dry were often turned off and the mines filled with water.
Climate Change Minister Julie James confirmed the funding would allow the Coal Authority to investigate whether this water, which is heated by geological processes, could be used to heat homes, businesses and industry across Wales.
Sites will be mapped to give a high-level assessment of where the greatest potential lies, with more detailed feasibility studies carried out on those deemed to have the most realistic likelihood of connecting to existing buildings and new developments .
Around 40% of the energy used in Wales provides heat to homes, businesses and our industry.
Most of this heat comes from gas, but by 2025 there will be no gas connections in new homes in Wales to support decarbonisation efforts.
Mine water is a sustainable, low-carbon heat source that could compete with utility gas prices and deliver carbon savings of up to 75% compared to gas-fired heating.
The Minister said: “Improving the energy efficiency of homes is essential as we tackle the climate emergency and build a stronger, greener and fairer Wales.
“To achieve this, we need to think innovatively and ensure that we meet future renewable energy needs. So I look forward to hearing what the Coal Authority will uncover in the course of its work.
“It’s very exciting that communities can be a few feet away from a technologically ready alternative to traditional heating methods that could help us on our journey to a Net Zero Wales by 2050.”
The Welsh Government has bold ambitions to see the entire public sector carbon neutral by 2030, and it is believed that heat from mine water could provide these bodies with an alternative solution to their current heating supply.
Any identified opportunities for heating mine water also have the potential to bring communities back to life, as well as create a host of benefits to the economy – including jobs and manufacturing.
At Taff’s Well, the natural flow of hot water from Wales’ only hot spring provides heating for the nearby park lodge and local primary school, which is similar to how a spring water system mine might work.
Clr. Tina Leyshon, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Business Services, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Council, said: “We are excited about the possibility that this same type of technology could be used to capture the heat that is also found in flooded mines in South Wales, so deep that they are also heated by geological processes.
“Our goal is to be a carbon neutral council by 2030, and for the county borough to be as close to carbon neutral as we can achieve by then. The search for new technologies to ensure a just transition is a key element.
“The Taff’s Well Hot Springs Project is a project that we are very proud of. The project to explore the potential of this technology through the mining grid will hopefully play an important role in ensuring the long-term energy security of our communities.
Gareth Farr, Head of Heat and By-Products Innovation at the Coal Authority added: “Mine water from disused coal mines can be used to support heating networks, providing safe, low-carbon heat to buildings.
“We look forward to working with the Welsh Government on this first-of-its-kind project to highlight the opportunity for such technology, creating a green future for the former coalfields of Wales.”