SCIENTISTS in Newcastle are to dig 2,000ft below the earth in a bid to power the city’s Science Central site.
As council leaders prepare to set up a Newcastle Science City company to speed up work, energy experts are looking at cleaner ways of powering the £40m project.
They plan to use hot rocks buried beneath the surface of the earth to heat water which would then turn electricity generating turbines.
And they want to dig for this geothermal heat in the heart of the city – on the former Newcastle Breweries site at Gallowgate.
Next week, Newcastle councillors will meet to back plans to hand over almost £2m towards the next phase and set up Newcastle Science City as a limited company.
Science City chief executive Peter Arnold said the company formation may seem rather technical but represented a big leap forward on plans to transform Newcastle’s economy.
“We have so far been getting by with staff seconded from other departments and this now gives us the chance to hire dedicated staff and put money in the bank, to start buying services. It is great to see things really moving on.”
Mr Arnold added the geothermal plans would help meet strict Government guidelines on energy efficiency.
He said: “In this city we have the expertise to create new sources of energy, and we have the fantastic opportunity to plan for these on our new site. We know we have to meet Government targets on cutting CO2 emissions and this will be a big step towards making Science Central one of the most energy efficient buildings in the country.
“Over the next five to 10 years there will be huge advances made as people bring new technologies to market and we will be planning for those as we design and build Science Central.”
Outline planning permission for the site is due to be submitted in autumn 2009 with the first building work to start in 2011.
Senior Liberal Democrat Greg Stone said the council’s decision to set up the company will allow staff to push on with their aim for the site.
“Many people looking at it will not at first realise how big a step this is for Science City. There is a lot of focus on the physical side of the development, for good reasons, but this will give a lot of certainty to people in terms of the behind the scenes issues.”
Further plans include developing a Newcastle Innovation Machine to help create new science businesses.