Glasgow could be heated from coalmines

Published on Friday, 07 September 2012 10:29
Posted by Scott Buckler

Did you know that you could heat your home by tapping into the Earth's thermal store using Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) technology?

Despite the benefits, this energy source is chronically underused in the UK and we have far fewer installations than countries such as Sweden and Germany. This is largely due to our traditional use of gas, the high cost of installation and a lack of awareness. Many people find it counterintuitive that underground temperatures as low as 10°C degrees are sufficient to keep our homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Which parts of the UK are best for GSHPs? Is the ground warmer in some places and cooler in others? The British Geological Survey (BGS) has been carrying out a range of research across the UK to answer some of these questions.

It's a fact that most rock types are suitable for GSHP technology, although some are better than others, for example, sandstone has a much higher thermal conductivity than gravel. The ground retains its heat so that at even very shallow depths of a few metres the seasonal temperature swing is far less than the air temperature. So even though southern areas are warmer than northern areas ground source heat pumps can be used anywhere to heat your home.

The BGS has been carrying out research across the Glasgow area, and has produced 3D models of the underground that are amongst the most ambitious and detailed of their kind for any city in the world. These models can be used to help identify, and provide access to a reservoir of heat energy that exists beneath Glasgow, focussing on waters in abandoned and flooded mines. This could meet some of the city's needs for many years to come and there is potential for other cities to do likewise both in the UK and further afield.

John Ludden, Executive Director of the British Geological Survey says "It is the difference between the underground temperature and that at the surface that makes this process work and in countries where there are extremes such as Canada and Sweden this is a well proven process. The unique approach in this project is to look at large scale heat exchange in urban areas using abandoned underground mine workings."

Source: ©BGS

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