The forgotten mine shafts beneath Oldham could be used to heat new homes in the town centre.
The pioneering approach is currently being explored by the council as part of its latest housing strategy, which lays out how it aims to shape the way homes are developed in the borough.
Together with the national Coal Authority, council bosses are investigating using the potential geothermal energy from old mine shafts as a means of heating new builds.
It’s believed the heat available underneath the town is ‘the best in the country’.
Many of the former mines were dug during the mid-late 1800s, but coal mining in Oldham is thought to have begun as early as the 17th century.
The housing strategy report states that officers are exploring creating a new low carbon heat network which would supply heat to any new homes built in the town centre.
This would be served by two sources of heat – spare capacity of biomass boilers in an existing district heating system and ground source heat from flooded disused coal mines.
However this plan is the only one at the feasibility stage.
A spokesman for Oldham council said: “It’s at a very early stage but we’ve looked into the possibility of using heat from disused mine shafts from under the town as a source of power.
“The national Coal Authority believes that there is opportunity because the coal mine heat underneath Oldham is the best in the country.
“We’re looking to see if the heat can then be extracted using a loop and fed into a new or existing district heating network such as the one already in use in the St Mary’s estate.”
The housing association First Choice Homes Oldham, who run St Mary’s estate, have also been involved in the discussions.
However the potential project is all subject to funding, feasibility and safety studies.
Geothermal energy is created by drilling into the earth’s surface.
The deeper you go, the warmer it gets.
But in order to extract geothermal energy from these warm depths it is essential that water is present and is able to flow from the rock.
That’s what makes abandoned coal mines an ideal candidate, as many of the shafts and galleries hundreds of metres below the surface have been flooded with running water.
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