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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


Exciting Renewable Energy Project for Spennymoor.

(13 December 2016)

In January 2016, local residents Alan Gardner, Cllr Kevin Thompson and Lynn Gibson from the Durham Energy Institute at Durham University, met a team of academics to explore the advantages renewable energy and specifically the use of geothermal resources could bring to Spennymoor.

Article by Alan Gardner for Spennymoor spectator

In a recently announced round of grant funding, Dr Charlotte Adams from Durham University’s Geography Department will take the lead role in an exciting study to look at the mine workings in and around Spennymoor with a public presentation in spring 2017 on the viability and sustainability of using ground water sources within the mines to heat public and private buildings. 

In setting out the scope for the study, Dr Adams submitted that Spennymoor has investigated some low carbon energy options including solar power but the challenges faced include identifying alternatives to conventional fuels and educating decision makers to be innovative in embracing solutions that benefit the community longer than the 4 year political cycle. With 2000 homes planned for construction, an aging population and fuel costs increasing, the use of renewable and sustainable energy to heat public and private spaces has the potential to help reduce the economic cost to the public, the environmental impact of population growth and take pressure off aging infrastructure. This project will ascertain whether flooded abandoned mines beneath the town are suitable as a source of heat when used in conjunction with heat pumps either individually or as part of a heat network for areas of the town. This project will, gather mine plans and map areas of flooded abandoned mine workings, look for correlation between resource and demand and estimate the resource available.

Whilst some studies have been done in Durham City, this is the first of its kind in the wider area. Spennymoor also having the advantage of its mining museum and links with the coal board archives and the wealth of information available there, means the project can move forwards rapidly.

Lynn who has worked at Durham University for 14 years, and more specifically in the Durham Energy Institute for 2 years said, “In the elections last year (2015), I asked the same question to all candidates in the Talk Spennymoor Facebook Group who took part in an open question session, what their thoughts were on Community Energy projects. I was overjoyed when Alan took an interest and was keen to learn more. I set up meetings for himself and Cllr Thompson here at Durham Energy Institute for them to find out more. This research funding that Dr Adams has received is a result of Alan’s continued dedication to the town.”

Alan added, “When Lynn first approached me with the idea, I took no time at all in agreeing it was worth considerable time and effort long term to explore the opportunity. I contacted Kevin Thompson for his support and assistance which he has always offered unreservedly. Due to the rising costs of fuel for heating and the socio-economic impact this could have on both public spending and individual home owner budgets, together with the environmental advantages seen in completed projects, every effort we make in this field to investigate the potential is worth it. Whilst this is still at an early stage, the outcome of this study could pave the way to world leading outcomes for the town.”

Durham University is one of the world leaders in this research field. Spennymoor now has an opportunity to be at the forefront of that research. What the outcomes will eventually be is unknown at this stage but being able to explore the opportunity by the best in the business is encouraging. For more information on the work of the Durham Energy Institute visit