Pioneering Geothermal Trial in Scotland to Heat Homes Using Abandoned Mines

16/01/2024

Scotland’s Innovative Approach to Sustainable Heating

In a move that could redefine renewable energy in Scotland, a groundbreaking geothermal trial is set to capture and repurpose the heat from the University of Edinburgh’s Advanced Computing Facility. This pioneering £2.6 million feasibility study is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to utilize the excess heat produced by the national supercomputer, which is used for extensive research including climate and health data modeling.

The Science Behind the Geothermal Solution

Presently, the Advanced Computing Facility generates up to 70 gigawatt hours of surplus heat annually. The Edinburgh Geobattery project, spearheaded by TownRock Energy, plans to enhance the cooling of supercomputers and transfer the heat into water held within disused local mines. With a potential to reach 40°C, this warm water could then be distributed to provide heating to buildings through advanced heat pump technology, utilizing the natural groundwater flow within the old mine workings.

University of Edinburgh’s Commitment to Net Zero

The University of Edinburgh is not only the lead research partner but is also injecting £500,000 into the project as part of its commitment to achieving net zero objectives. Professor Christopher McDermott, who is the lead academic on the project, highlighted the widespread potential of the initiative, emphasizing the importance of sustainably reducing energy costs, particularly with over 800,000 households in Scotland facing fuel poverty.

International Collaboration for a Sustainable Future

The project boasts a multinational research consortium with industry and academic partners from Scotland, the US, and Ireland. David Townsend, the founder of TownRock Energy, expressed enthusiasm for the project’s role in progressing towards net zero by mastering the capture, storage, and reuse of waste heat using the infrastructure of legacy coal mines.

Financial and Institutional Support

Scottish Enterprise has backed the initiative with a £1 million grant, complementing contributions from the US Department of Energy, which has pledged an additional $1 million to support researchers from Idaho National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Suzanne Sosna from Scottish Enterprise lauded the collaborative effort, expressing excitement over the project’s potential to convert gigabytes of data processing into clean, sustainable heat for Scottish homes.

Wider Research and Development Network

The Edinburgh Geothermal project extends its collaborative network to include University College Dublin, with support from Geothermica and Geological Survey Ireland, as well as the University of Strathclyde, all contributing to the development of innovative heating and cooling solutions.

Join the Discussion

As the project unfolds, it invites further conversation and engagement from those interested in the intersection of technology and sustainable energy solutions. The initiative is not just an energy project but a beacon of hope for a greener, more sustainable future for Scotland and beyond.

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