Seaham Garden Village to be powered by unique mine water energy scheme

An ambitious ‘garden village’ development will be heated using a unique scheme using mine water energy.

By Ross Robertson
Friday, 31st January 2020, 3:11 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 10:18 am

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An aerial impression of the development.
An aerial impression of the development.

The Seaham Garden Village development will consist of 750 affordable homes, 750 private homes, a school, shops, and medical and innovation centres.

The scheme is in close proximity to existing commercial buildings, a supermarket and the coastal village of Seaham, with a population of around 21,000.

The new development will be supplied with geothermal heat from the Coal Authority’s nearby Dawdon mine water treatment scheme, which treats water abstracted from an extensive network of flooded abandoned coal mines in the area.

Dawdon Mine water treatment scheme

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Mine heat can be an energy source that is unaffected by external factors, which developers say will mean it has a stable price not subject to future variations or rises in energy prices.

It is a renewable energy source that also has the potential to have a zero carbon footprint, they added.

Jeremy Crooks, head of innovation at the Coal Authority, said the government body, is committed to creating a better future from the UK’s mining past, including managing many mine water treatment schemes across Britain.

The authority estimates there could be enough energy in the UK’s flooded, abandoned mines to heat all of the homes on the coalfields.

The site in question

“With one quarter of UK homes and businesses sited on former coalfields, mine water energy could be seen as crucial to when it comes to solving Britain’s energy crisis, with Seaham Garden Village potentially the first of many similar schemes,” said Mr Crooks

“Heat from abandoned coal mines is an innovative and practical solution to one of the big challenges facing our economy – decarbonising our heating supplies.

“There would be wider benefits to this sustainable energy source too, as it would also attract new investment, create employment and deliver lower fuel bills to Seaham Garden Village and to other district heating schemes to be built on the coalfields.”

“The abandoned coal mines in the UK present an enormous opportunity to us as a source of geothermal energy.”

Mr Crooks explained in the mines is heated by geological processes, and remains stable year-round.

“This constantly renewing available, zero-carbon heat resource, can be transferred to a pipe network using a heat exchanger and distributed to nearby homes, and the Seaham Garden Village development will be the first working example of this network”, he said.

The scheme - a collaboration between the Coal Authority, Tolent Construction, and Durham County Council - is also unusual in that it does not use metal pipes, due to the lower temperatures involved.

Mr Crooks said the method of delivery is much cheaper than district heating schemes using higher temperatures, where metal piping is essential and has greater temperature losses, making networks such as Seaham Garden Village much more viable than most district heating schemes.

He said when mine water has recovered nearer the surface it can be cheaper than public supply gas and is ideally suited to district heating, commercial space heating and horticultural use.