Old mine tunnels, like those under this hoist, are filled with water, which may be a valuable geothermal resource. (Photo © and courtesy Edward Louie)
CALUMET -- A Community Conversation on Minewater Geothermal will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, April 6, in the CLK School atrium in Calumet. The event is free and open to the public.
The water filling abandoned mine tunnels could be a major geothermal resource, both on the Keweenaw Peninsula and across the United States.
Student researchers at Michigan Technological University have put together the first comprehensive guidebook communities can use to explore the feasibility of utilizing 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.
The research team will present their work to the public at this event. 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.
Copies of "A Community Guide to Mine Water Heating and Cooling," inspired by the research team's work with the community of Calumet, will be available, along with information on existing mine water geothermal systems.
Refreshments from Cafe Rosetta will be provided.
Next week (April 11-13) the students will travel to Washington, D.C., to present their work at the Sustainable Design Expo, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The research team worked with Michigan Tech'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.*
Michigan Tech graduate student Edward Louie spearheaded the project as part of his master’s degree work in energy policy.
"With mine water, you can draw lots of heat from it without it cooling down," Louie says.
The mine water in the Keweenaw stays around 53 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, Louie explains. These temperatures can then be used to heat or cool buildings using simple technology: mostly pipes, heat exchangers and heat pumps.
Click here to read more about this project on the Michigan Tech News.
* See the March 25, 2014, guest article by Laura Smyth, "Minewater Geothermal on the Keweenaw Peninsula."