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As many as 56 collieries operated across Yorkshire at the peak of the mining industry, extracting coal to fuel industry and energy production around the world. Now, according to Ian Gilthorpe, senior partner at Square One Law, the mines’ legacy could be transformed, from one of the causes of climate change, to creating a sustainable energy source for space heating, taking it from “pollution to solution”.

Square One Law, an entrepreneurial law firm with offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Teesside, work with North East-based business, Lanchester Wines, which has harnessed the legacy of historic North East carbon production and pollution – coal mines – to create a radical but efficient heating solution. Boreholes are drilled into flooded mines and floodwater is pumped out of the mine at around 17°C. Reverse refrigeration technology is used to cool the water and generate heat before returning the water underground. Each 1kWh of electricity used to power the heat pumps generates 6kWh of heat.

Ian Gilthorpe said, “Lanchester Wines is based in County Durham and Tyneside, and bottles around one in ten of the wines drunk in the UK. As such, the company has vast storage facilities of around 1million sq. ft., the equivalent size of twelve football pitches, which present significant heating challenges and six of which are heated with mine water from disused mines. In developing a sustainable, large-space heat source, they have delivered the answer to a significant challenge in achieving net-zero for companies with large storage facilities, which could be replicated in all parts of the country with disused mines, including Yorkshire.”

Adam Black, Group Board Director of Lanchester Group said: “As a business, Lanchester Wines has always been passionate about its long-term sustainability which goes above and beyond both legislation and common practice. The Lanchester Group runs a commercial sustainability strategy which helps us prioritise the biggest impact projects which also make financial sense. Wind turbines, solar panels and air source heat pumps provide us with renewable power and heat, while our sites in Gateshead are fitted with the UK’s second largest open loop ground source heat pump system. Working with organisations including The Coal Authority, Environment Agency and numerous academics, we are the first business in the UK to draw heat from disused coal mines and have capability to draw over 110 litres of water a second.”

Directors, Tony and Veronica Cleary founded Lanchester Group in 1980, and have established it as one of the UK’s leading wine importers and wine wholesalers.

Tony Cleary said, “As a privately owned, family business we are in a largely unique position which enables us to experiment and take risks in order to find new solutions, and we want others to emulate our successes – we believe what is good for the environment is good for us all. However, the process of installing the technology was made more complex because of the regulations of three separate agencies. Ofgem, the Coal Authority and Environment Agency all have different sets of regulations.”

Ian Gilthorpe has helped Adam Black explain all these problems in a letter to Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP. They have also explained that a clarification and simplification of approach could make the scheme much more widely available by helping companies offset the initial risk of investment.

Ian Gilthorpe said: “The innovation of the team at Lanchester Wines in developing this renewable heat sourcing is amazing. They have truly engineered a mechanism by which the legacy of coal mining can be transformed, taking it from the cause of so much pollution to part of the solution in working towards a net-zero future.

“At Square One Law we are passionate in our support for ingenuity and enterprise, working closely with entrepreneurs providing advice and sharing our networks that will help them realise their ambitions and innovations. This low carbon solution could be replicated in Yorkshire and we’d be keen to work with any forward-thinking organisation that could apply this innovation to reduce their carbon footprint.”

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