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When Tow Law Community Association in County Durham realised that old mine works in the town had the potential to supply the community with renewable energy, a grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund helped them to fund a feasibility study.

Jenny Flynn from the Tow Law Community Association explains more.

Tow Law Community Association was established as a charity in 1983. We raised the funds to build a community centre, where we’re now based, and which is also a home to the town council, a weekly food bank and a huge array of community services including housing association advice sessions, sports clubs, music and art classes, and toddler groups.

Of course, it’s important that we keep our costs down in order to remain viable, and part of that is looking at energy efficiency in our own building. To do this, in 2010 we commissioned an environmental report for the community centre. As well as resulting in the installation of 48 solar panels which reduce our bills and bring in income, the report led to the suggestion that it might be possible to harness heat within mine water which is under the ground in areas of Tow Law.

There are lots of old mines in this area, most of which closed down in the 1960s. It seemed silly not to find out if we could make use of the mine water to generate heat for people’s homes – the naturally-heated water would be used to generate heat, giving the potential to save both money and resources in the long run.

A grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund has enabled us to have a survey carried out to find out whether the mine water idea is viable and also whether the site might be a suitable spot for solar panels. If it does turn out to be a viable project, then we will move on to the next stage of putting it into action.

There are wind farms in our local area so people here are already very aware of the potential of renewables. And of course, people are a lot more concerned about climate change now, which we all have to work together to tackle.

I understand there are similar projects taking place in Denmark, where local communities benefit from wind-generated power, and I think it is the way forward for small communities.

Grants like this are there to be used and the experts are out there who can support you so I’d encourage other North East communities to look at what local resources they might have available and give it a go as well.

Find out more about the Rural Community Energy Fund here, or get in touch with Josh Sawyer, Rural Energy Officer at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership on [email protected] or 07584 154510.

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