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Researchers from the University of Strathclyde hope to draw upon Scotland’s coal mining past to create clean renewable energy.

A project led by the university has won early-stage funding to explore how to tap into geothermal energy contained within disused, flooded coal mines across the country.

The HotScot project is one of 17 shortlisted submissions chosen by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund.With submissions due in late 2020, four to eight of the strongest project bids are set to receive anywhere between £10m and £50m to aid their proposals. If successful, the HotScot project will develop three new mine-water geothermal heating/thermal energy storage sites throughout Scotland’s Central Belt.

Development of mine-water geothermal sites across Scotland could deliver significant economic growth and create nearly 10,000 jobs. Similarly, heat trapped in disused mines throughout the Central Belt could meet up to 8% of Scotland’s domestic heating demands.

Scotland has set ambitious targets to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within the next 25 years, including a 75% reduction by 2030. Professor Zoe Shipton, who leads the HotScot consortium, said the project could aid this ambition and deliver both positive economic and environmental benefits.

“Heat trapped in flooded coal mines represents a vast untapped low carbon energy resource. The UK’s former coal mines are a £3 billion liability, but HotScot can demonstrate how these old mines could become an economic asset,” she said.

“Flooded coal mines contain water with little to no seasonal variation in temperature, making them an ideal heat source for district heating networks to support low-carbon, affordable heating, cooling and heat storage for local communities and businesses,” Professor Shipton added.

Currently, researchers said the main barriers to exploiting these potential energy sources are costs to investors and access to the appropriate resources. Initial plans will see the HotScot consortium develop at least three active geothermal sites in the Central Belt, with two more being retrofitted.

Data generated through the project will also be publicly available through a portal run by the British Geological Survey as part of the UK Geoenergy Observatories project.

Engagement with universities and colleges will also be a key component of the project, with researchers working closely to develop graduate apprenticeships and new training programmes alongside partners across a range of industries and sectors.

Creative industry partners, which include Handiwork Games, Screen Scotland and Timeslip media will produce materials for school children and adults across multiple media platforms.

Professor Shipton said: “The combination of core research, learning-by-doing and the resulting targeted research will not only de-risk the individual projects but address global barriers to mine-water geothermal heating/cooling/thermal energy storage as a technology; creating employment within the Central Belt of Scotland, long-term export opportunities for Scottish skills and products, and sustainable economic growth beyond the project lifespan.”