Hot rocks: Ecovillage is planned

Gerrard Winstanley tony at
Sun Jan 30 21:58:15 GMT 2005

Eco-Village Plan after Hot Rocks Discovery under Lafarge cement works

(UK) An eco-village powered by hot rocks thousands of feet below the ground could be built in a remote valley.

A former cement works in Weardale, County Durham, could be transformed into a pioneering community of homes and businesses which are energy self- sufficient.

The site would use five sources of renewable energy: geothermal energy from the hot rocks, hydro-electric, solar, wind power and electricity produced by burning waste from nearby woods.

Experts believe that could be enough to heat up to 4,000 local homes, making the wider Weardale area, as well as the proposed eco-village, self-sufficient.

The discovery of the hot rocks around 3,280ft below the ground was confirmed last night in a report by PB Power and scientists from Newcastle University, who have been surveying the country's second hot rocks site at the former Lafarge cement works in Eastgate.

It stated: "By any standards, the Eastgate prospecting programme has been a great success, revealing the presence of a geothermal resource at least as promising as the best ever previously identified in the UK.

"In the process of reaching this finding, much valuable geological information has been collected, which sheds further light on the geological history of the area contributing to the store of knowledge, which further underpins the North Pennines status as a European Geopark."

Water which has been heated to 46C would be extracted from the granite below the valley and used for space heaters in the eco-village, before being pumped back underground.

The exact drilling point was determined by Prof Paul Younger and Prof David Manning from the university.

It was hoped 150 jobs could be created if the landmark scheme became a tourist attraction.

Development money from Europe and regional grants totalling £545,000 have been spent on putting together the plan, which should now be taken on by private firms.

Lafarge will begin demolishing its cement works in the New Year, freeing the site for a mixed development of homes and hi-tech businesses.

John Holmes, director of regeneration and tourism for the regional development agency One NorthEast, said: "The results of the test drilling at the Eastgate site are very encouraging and will help drive plans forward for the site to eventually house the UK's first renewable energy model village.

"This pioneering development has the potential to generate new jobs and prosperity for the dale and put the area at the forefront of renewable energy usage in the UK, which will play an increasingly important part in all our lives in years to come."

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