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Unused Old Mines Could Be Used as Geothermal Power Sources


Mine shaftGeothermal energy has a lot of potential worldwide. As it is not dependent on many factors, geothermal energy could be the cleanest power source of near future. Two scientists from University of Oviedo, Spain, have concluded that geothermal energy could be provided by mine shafts.

Their research can estimate the amount of heat that a tunnel can provide: “One way of making use of low-intensity geothermal energy is to convert mine shafts into geothermal boilers, which could provide heating and hot water for people living nearby” said Rafael Rodri­guez, from the Oviedo Higher Technical School of Mining Engineering. This energy comes from the internal heat of the Earth as it can be easily harvested as the two engineers explained. The amount of heat produced by the mine tunnel can be calculated using a “semi-empirical” method (combining mathematics and experiments).

“When the mine is still active one can access the tunnels easily in order to gather data about ventilation and the properties of the rocks, as well as to take samples and design better circuits, and even program the closure of some sections in order to use them for geothermal energy production”, said Rafael Rodri­guez even though thermal energy can be harvested only once the mine is closed. He concluded that “it is no longer possible by that stage to make any modifications, or to gather any useful data to evaluate and improve the system” (once the mine is closed).

Rafael Rodri­guez and his colleague Mari­a Belarmina Di­az the developers of the “semi-empirical” method, plan to use for the energy harvesting a two kilometer long mine shaft, with a depth of 500m, where the rocks have a temperature of about 30 degrees Celsius. Water can be pumped into tubes at 7º C and return at 12º C, a sufficient gain of heat to be useful to towns located near the mine.

The geothermal energy has a lot of advantages like reducing CO2 emissions, not being dependant of external climate conditions. New developments are not required so from costs point of view is cheap. The energy can be used directly in family homes, housing developments, swimming pools, fish farms, industrial units and so on.

The idea proposed by the two engineers is very interesting and could spare a lot of money for countries that will want to use this type of energy. Almost every country in this world has mines which at one moment will not be used anymore. Depends on the people mind set if they want to go green or not.

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  1. Why not install turbines near the bottom of mine shafts to generate elctricity from the water dropping down these long distances, especially where the mine shaft is absolutely vertical and large amounts of water is channeled into the shaft? The pressure at the bottom must be quite significant.

  2. This is a good way to reuse the abandoned mines, however, geothermal energy itself needs a big power plant to harness and distribute, and can certainly pay for its own costs very quickly, but why not promote and foster other low profile energy sources such as wine and solar powers?

  3. To be honest, I don’t think that geothermal energy has a future. It’s impractical or impossible to harness most places on the planet and it’s basically been developed as much as it ever will be. But if it powers one industrial unit and one fish farm then yeah, it’s awesome…


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