Pioneering plan looks at reusing old coal mines around Bath to generate renewable energy

January 26, 2024

The Bath area’s disused coal mines, which have been sealed up for more than 50 years, could be repurposed to supply clean energy to around 100,000 homes across the region.

A major study will look at bringing many of the area’s 100-plus collieries back to life by harnessing their potential as sites for heat pumps – a form of renewable energy that uses water that has been naturally warmed underground.

Most of the mine workings, which for hundreds of years provided coal for the area’s homes and factories, have been flooded since being closed down. 

Now a £1.6m study commissioned by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and backed by the Coal Authority and Historic England, will investigate whether this water can be tapped to provide clean power for thousands of homes.

Schools, hospitals and offices could also be supplied with energy through a series of regional heat networks with pipes linked to the disused pits, according to Metro Mayor Dan Norris, pictured, who leads WECA.

He said almost a quarter of the region's homes sat above once thriving mines in the Somerset and South Gloucestershire coalfields, which were now flooded with water.

The study will map the mine areas with the greatest potential heat resource, subsequently leading to detailed ground investigation works.

Mayor Norris, who comes from a mining family, said: “I love the idea that coal mines could be repurposed to provide the clean energy of the future – it’s coming full circle.”

The study was launched at the Radstock Museum, in the shadow of the town’s colliery wheel monument and attended by local people and representatives from the Coal Authority, which aims to create a better future for former mining communties, as well as a leading energy firm with plans to build a West of England-wide heat network.

The idea was welcomed by those attending, including 82-year-old former miner and guest of honour Bryn Hawkins, pictured above with Mayor Norris.

Bryn, who worked in the local pits, as did his father and grandfather, said the plan could give a new lease of life to what had been such a crucial part of the fabric of life in Radstock.

He said: “When the pits shut in 1973, my dad's generation were devastated. They knew their way of life would never be the same again,” he said.

"If we can tap into those very same pits and start generating energy from them again, that would be absolutely fantastic.

"I've always said it's really important the Somerset coal mines must never be forgotten. 

“This could be a great way of helping us celebrate an important part of our regional and national heritage in a sustainable way."

Mayor Dan Norris added: “Radstock has a proud mining heritage so I can think of no better place to launch this plan. 

“The synergy is fantastic that mines that contributed to CO2 emissions could now hold the key to clean, green energy. 

“Generating home-grown energy also gives us the chance of cheaper bills, new high-paid jobs and energy security from tyrants like Putin.”

He said heat from mines had national, and possibly global, implications too. 

“With many millions of people living above former coalfields right across the country, the potential for mine water heat could be huge,” he added.

"The climate crisis is the biggest challenge we face as a region, as a nation and world. This is a real opportunity to explore an innovative way to heat our homes.”

MP Alex Davies-Jones, who heads the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coalfield Communities, said: "As an MP for a coalfield constituency, as well as being the daughter and granddaughter of miners, I'm delighted by the prospect of former coal mines once again being used to generate power and create jobs.

"Just as coal mining was integral to Britain's industrial revolution, with the right policies and investment, coalfield communities have the potential to be at the forefront of a 21st century technological revolution.

"It is great to see WECA, led by Dan Norris, along with many other parts of the country, taking steps to turn this potential into reality.


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