homenews and insights strathclyde researchers win early stage funding to develop geothermal energy

Strathclyde researchers win early stage funding to develop geothermal energy plans for disused, flooded coal mines

Coal mine

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde have won early stage funding to develop plans to tap into the geothermal energy contained within disused, flooded coal mines in Scotland.

The HotScot project is one of 17 shortlisted submissions across the UK chosen by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund to develop a full-stage bid that could lead to significant economic growth.

The consortium behind the project will submit their bid to UKRI in late 2020, with four to eight of the strongest bids set to receive between £10m and £50m each to carry out their proposals.

If successful, the HotScot consortium will develop at least three new mine-water geothermal heating/cooling/thermal energy storage sites in the Central Belt.

The consortium will deliver research and development to de-risk the technologies and support Scottish industry to build such sites across the UK and globally.

The £21 million investment in these sites, in tandem with £16 million research and innovation activities, will demonstrate the commercial potential to private sector investors of low-cost, low emissions heating, cooling and heat storage for communities and businesses.

Development of mine-water geothermal across Scotland could deliver economic growth equivalent to £303 million and around 9,800 jobs.

The consortium is being led by Professor Zoe Shipton, from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and includes Glasgow, Heriot-Watt and Stirling universities, British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, Community Energy Scotland, ENGIE, Envirocentre, Ramboll, Scottish Enterprise, SSE Enterprise, Synaptec, Synergie Environ, and TownRock Energy.

Heat trapped in 600 km3 of disused mine-workings in the Central Belt of Scotland could meet up to 8% of Scotland’s domestic heating demand.

Professor Shipton said: “Scotland has an ambitious target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, with a 75% reduction by 2030.

“Heat trapped in flooded coal mines represents a vast untapped low-carbon energy resource. The UK’s former coal mines are a £3 billion liability, but HotScot can demonstrate how these old mines could become an economic asset. “Flooded coal mines contain water with little to no seasonal variation in temperature making them an ideal heat source for district heating networks to support low-carbon, affordable heating, cooling and heat storage for local communities and businesses.”

The main barriers to exploiting this energy is proving the resources and costs to investors. The HotScot consortium will develop at least three active geothermal sites and retrofit two more at different scales and with varying end-users.

All of the data the team generate will be publicly available through a portal run by the British Geological Survey as part of the UK Geoenergy Observatories project.

The project has three core themes: Minimising technical, geological, environmental, societal risks; maximising socio-economic benefits; and engaging communities in their energy future.

Researchers will also engage with universities and colleges to develop graduate apprenticeships and new training programmes alongside industrial and local authority partners to fill the skills shortage in the sector.

Creative industry partners, Handiwork Games, Screen Scotland and Timeslip media will produce engaging materials for school children and adults across multiple media platforms.

Professor Shipton said: “The combination of core research, learning-by-doing and the resulting targeted research will not only de-risk the individual projects but address global barriers to minewater geothermal heating/cooling/thermal energy storage as a technology: creating employment within the Central Belt of Scotland, long-term export opportunities for Scottish skills and products, and sustainable economic growth beyond the project lifespan.”

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Richard Hoggart Building, College Green
Distributed Energy Infrastructure | 21 Apr 2021

SSE teams up with Goldsmiths, University of London to slash carbon emissions

Energy solutions provider, SSE Enterprise has signed a joint development agreement with Goldsmiths, University of London to design and deliver a low carbon campus infrastructure in pursuit of the university’s ambitious net zero targets.

The project will see SSE Enterprise’s distributed energy division look to consolidate all of Goldsmiths’ significant energy consuming buildings onto a centralised campus-wide heat and power network. It is estimated that the first phase of the project will save the institution an average of 1,375 tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent annual energy use of 144 homes.

The project has a core focus to reduce the carbon emissions associated with heat, as the university pledges to become completely carbon neutral by 2025. The system will heat the buildings using a low-carbon heat pump, removing the majority of gas consumption on site and saving up to 7,850 MWh of gas usage per year.

By integrating all power onto a single private network, the university will be able to use a much higher proportion of any onsite renewables, without the risk of exporting that electricity onto the grid. The new power system will expand on the university’s existing solar resources, installing a further 400kW of solar PV into the new private network, which will then be used to supply the heat pump, further reducing carbon emissions on site.

Giles Newton, Head of Public Sector & Regulated Markets at SSE Enterprise, said: “By bringing the whole campus onto a centralised system, we are able to integrate more renewable generation into its buildings without having to upgrade each one individually. While previous projects of this kind have focused on single technology solutions, we have chosen to adopt a whole systems approach. Integrating the entire system enables Goldsmiths to closely manage its carbon emissions and future proof the campus for renewable efficiency.”

Everton Williams, Deputy Director Estates at Goldsmiths, added: “The global climate crisis is a growing threat and one that we must target head on. The technologies and experience available to support organisations such as ourselves has developed exponentially in recent years and it’s vital that we harness these solutions now to create a more green and sustainable future.

“We are excited to begin this journey with SSE Enterprise as they support us in our goals to deliver our PLAN25 strategy and achieve a completely carbon neutral campus by 2025. We have already made significant strides in this area with our investment in solar PV panels, but this new partnership will see us fully embracing a ‘whole systems’ approach by adopting and integrating other low-carbon technologies.”

SSE Enterprise have already designed a concept for the system and are currently supporting Goldsmiths with applications for grant funding to enable the construction of the network and potentially the long-term operation of the system over a 25-year period. The 1MWth heat pump set to be installed will supply 6,500 MWh of low carbon heat to the site every year.

SSE has been confirmed as a major partner for this year’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November. SSE Group aims to deliver a £7.5bn low carbon investment programme, developing some of the assets and infrastructure required for the UK to reach its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Read moreSSE teams up with Goldsmiths, University of London to slash carbon emissions