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‘Lessons learned’ from mine water heating scheme that never took off

29 Apr 2024 3 minute read
Caerau. Credit: Bridgend County Borough Council

Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter

Members of a Bridgend Council scrutiny committee have heard how lessons were learned as the result of a “highly innovative” mine water heating scheme that was never taken forward.

The Caerau Heat Scheme, first proposed as a demonstrator project in 2016, aimed to extract heat from water contained within the flooded former coal mine workings of the Caerau Colliery to provide an energy resource for properties in the village.

It was supported with funding from the European Regional Development Fund and was at one time intended to supply around 300 homes in the area as well as a number of community buildings and a local primary school.

However, at a recent meeting officers addressed members in what was said to be a final discussion about the project where they noted that, despite the best efforts of the authority, as well as the promise it had shown, the project was eventually considered financially un-viable and not taken forward.

As well as taking questions from members officers described how in the years since the project was dropped, they had produced a “toolkit” which contained detailed research and feasibility studies worth almost £3m that other local authorities could now use to see if similar projects would be suitable for their areas.

Pilot project

The report read: “A significant level of work was carried out throughout the project delivery including the drilling of a borehole to more than 200m and an extensive engagement with the local community and external stakeholders.

“As an innovative pilot project much has been learned from this funded activity which will be of value to other projects that aim to use heat from mine workings. Dissemination of this resource is through key strategic partners including Welsh Government, Regional Bodies, and the Coal Authority.”

Members at the meeting were eager to find out some of the reasons why the project was un-viable as well as requesting a breakdown of how the research funding had been spent.

Officers said they would look to bring a report back to members on the break-down of the costs and highlighted that one of the main issues with the viability of the scheme was due to business rates that would have been levied by Welsh Government.

The toolkit created to “capture the lessons learned from the funded activity” is now available for other local authorities across the UK to use with members noting that while this version of the Caerau Heat Scheme will likely not be discussed again the council could still look to revisit the technology in the future as a sustainable form of heating.

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