A project in the south of England will see disused coal mines become a source of heating for thousands of homes.

The project forms part of a $73m (£60m) investment in green technology from the West of England Combined Authority, the region’s local council. The so-called green recovery fund was agreed by political leaders in the region in a meeting last Friday.

Once coal mines are no longer used, they fill with water which is heated through naturally-occurring geothermal processes. The project seeks to devise a means to pipe the heated water into people’s homes as an alternative to fossil-fuel powered boilers, typically used for heating in the UK.

Mayor of the West of England, Dan Norris, said of the project: “I can’t think of anything that would be more fantastic than to think what had contributed to carbon dioxide emissions over hundreds of years was then able to turn around and reduce them. There’s a kind of irony but also an important purpose there”.

The project has been underway since last year, when the UK’s Coal Authority commissioned an initial study into potential coal mines which could be used for heating July.

Heating the South of England

The project is being led by the South Gloucestershire Council, located near the city of Bristol.

Counsellor Toby Savage, leader of South Gloucestershire Council told Bristol Live: “We estimate that there are 26,000 homes and businesses that are located within the vicinity of former mine workings with a potential heat resource”.

Swedish power company Vattenfall has previously established a project to provide low-carbon heating solutions for UK homes. The project includes the construction of a 20-kilometre pipe through the Bristol region.

Given recent developments, this ‘strategic heat main’ could be fed using heat from disused coal mines.

According to Noah Nkonge, head of partnerships at Vattenfall Heat UK: “To reach net-zero the UK has to crack the problem of emissions from heat, which currently make up one third of the UK’s total emissions”.

The Vattenfall project received funding from the UK government’s Heat Networks Investment Project a $390m (£320m) funding package to improve heat networks in the UK.