Researchers begin work to harness the power of Glasgows abandoned mines

12 February 2013

Geothermal power could heat more Glasgow homes

Geothermal power could heat more Glasgow homes

A project which could lead to the water held in the network of abandoned mine workings underneath Glasgow being used to generate up to 40 per cent of the city’s heat will begin this month.

Scientists at Glasgow Caledonian University have recently received funding from ScottishPower to map the maze of abandoned tunnels which exist beneath the city. The team will identify underground reservoirs of water which have the potential to heat homes and potentially to power under street heating. 

One small city housing estate – Glenalmond Street in the East End – already uses geothermal energy and residents have heating bills of around £160 per year, as compared to £660 for an average Scottish family.  

GCU’s Dr Nicholas Hytiris, a geotechnical specialist in the University’s Institute for Sustainable Engineering and Technology Research, said once the correct data have been gathered on the location of the underground water reservoirs, special ground source heat pumps could be used to extract heat from the water. The extracted energy would then be used for the heating of homes or offices.

He said: “After Hamburg and Stockholm, Glasgow could be the third city in the world to have under street heating. In three years’ time we will have a full and accurate record of what is going on beneath our feet and then we can go on from there.

“We believe this technology will in the long term be able to provide cheaper and more sustainable heating, which could be an answer to fuel poverty issues prevalent in many areas of Glasgow, particularly those with a mining past and a legacy of poor quality housing and high unemployment.”

The project will initially focus on the Clyde Gateway regeneration area but will grow to encompass several other parts of Glasgow with a mining history.
World leading geoscience centre, the British Geological Survey, has offered full access to its data including a unique 3D geological model of the city for the three-year duration of the project.

A representative from ScottishPower (Mr Ciaran Higgins) and from the British Geological Survey (Dr Diarmad Campbell) will act as industrial co-supervisors for the project.

Derek Drummond, Sustainable Technology Manager at ScottishPower, said: “This is an excellent project that could prove to be very beneficial for the City and its residents, and we are pleased to be supporting the study. The initial work around the Clyde Gateway regeneration area should allow a good understanding of the technical challenges involved in capturing this energy, and how it could be applied to other areas. It is important that we can fully understand how this energy will integrate with the electricity network, and we look forward to seeing the study develop.”

Dr Hytiris will be joined by GCU colleague Dr Rohinton Emmanuel, a reader in sustainable design and construction who has expertise in urban climate change and Mr Bjorn Aaen, a former technical advisor and a former group leader to Glasgow City Council. Dr Caroline Gallagher, senior lecturer at GCU and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) specialist, will assist in an advisory capacity. This project will be carried out by GCU graduate Miss Emma Church, as part of her PhD research in this field, funded in part by the School of Engineering and Built Environment and ScottishPower.

Mr Aaen, whose original vision initiated interest in this field a number of years ago from his knowledge of Glasgow’s geology and mining history, said:
“We aim to show that harnessing this energy is a viable option, which we believe it is. We’re confident that utilising this technology properly will lead to a large energy saving for thousands of Glaswegians.”