There are many reminders and memories of the once great British coal mining industry to be found across the UK’s former coalfields. Ranging from abandoned buildings and old pit signs to miners welfare clubs where the tales from the pits are still hot topics. As the years pass, many of the physical reminders are disappearing from view and slowly being consigned to history. However, one old coal mine, Caerau Colliery, has recently received approval to enable it to provide energy to the community on its surface once again and preserve its legacy.
Caerau Colliery, which employed over 2,000 men at the height of its operation before it closed in 1977, a former coal mine located in Bridgend, Wales, is set to be used to pump naturally heated water from the mine up to the surface where it will be used to heat 150 homes.
The Caerau scheme aims to pump the naturally heated water (approx. 20.6C / 70F) from the old Caerau Colliery mine, from a depth of 230m (750ft) to the surface above. So, how exactly does it work?
- Warm water is pumped up from the old mine.
- The water is fed through a heat exchanger unit. This is a device that will be fitted in people’s homes and is roughly the size of a refrigerator.
- The heat that is generated from this exchanger is then passed through a heat pump which in turn warms the water used in the home’s central heating system.
- The water from the mine does not enter the home’s central heating and is pumped back underground so it can heat back up naturally and be reused.
This is only the start of the scheme, which aims to eventually heat 1,000 local homes and help cut the energy bills of the local community in this deprived area of Wales. It is estimated that the scheme could save residents up to £100 per year in energy bills as this method does not require gas to heat water.
The project is modelled on similar schemes in Holland, where mine water has been heating homes for a decade. However, the Caerau scheme promises to be the first ever largescale mine water energy scheme in the UK.
“It’s a very prestigious project and I am proud it’s happening in Bridgend,” said cabinet member Richard Young.
Mr Young said the scheme would create jobs and apprenticeships but the number is not yet known.
Cabinet Secretary for Energy Lesley Griffiths said:
“This is a cutting edge model of generating a clean source of renewable energy drawing on the legacy of our coal mining heritage,” she said. “It will not only attract further investment to the area, but also addresses fuel poverty by cutting energy bills with the potential to be rolled out to Wales and beyond.”
The total cost of the project is estimated at about £9.4m – the Welsh European Funding Office’s £6.5m grant has been combined with £2.2m of match funding from the UK and Welsh governments, the council and non-profit organisation Energy Systems Catapult. Bridgend council is trying to raise the remaining £700,000.
A feasibility study is ongoing until the end of February and the British Geological Survey has tested the temperature, chemistry and volume of water available. Construction work is expected to start in 2020 with the first 150 homes being heated by winter 2021.
The impact of the loss of the UK’s former coal industry can be seen in many of the communities which are left behind with many miners suffering from conditions such as Vibration White Finger. Jordans Solicitors has a department working with ex coal miners looking into their Vibration White Finger claims as it has come to light that many miners missed out on £1000’s. If you’re an ex miner and think you may have a claim, contact a member of our VWF team free on 03303 001103.