Millions of miles of tunnels criss-cross the ground under old mining communities across the United States. Abandoned, falling apart and choked with water, the tunnels are often viewed as a dangerous legacy. But the water in these mines could actually be a major geothermal resource.

Student researchers at Michigan Technological University have put together the first comprehensive guidebook communities can use to explore the feasibility of using mine water for geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings. While there is great potential for this resource, there are less than 30 active mine water geothermal systems in the world. One is at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center just north of Houghton, Michigan.

Design Local, Act National

The research team worked with the University's Keweenaw Research Center and community leaders in Calumet to understand the local potential. In fact, the idea for this project came from community members in Calumet, and especially Elmore Reese at Main Street Calumet.

The team will present its work to the public in Calumet, Mich., on April 6, in the atrium of the Calumet – Laurium – Keweenaw (CLK) School from 7 to 9 p.m. Community members can interact with a tabletop model showing how mine water geothermal works, calculate the distance from their own home to the nearest mine shaft and make approximate cost calculations for installation and pay-back, using a calculator tool. People of all ages are welcome.

The following week, April 11 to 13, the team will take its presentation to Washington, D.C., for the National Sustainable Design Expo, a student design competition supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The project is funded by a People, Prosperity and Planet (P3) grant through the EPA. The researchers will find out about a second round of funding at the expo.

Source: Michigan Tech News - see full article