New underground observatory opens in Glasgow to help achieve Net-zero targets

The UK Geoenergy Observatory in Glasgow that will give scientists an unprecedented look at the Earth’s subsurface, has had its virtual this week. It is made up of 12 boreholes beneath manhole covers within a fenced compound, each 16-199 metres deep and fitted with 319 state-of-the-art sensors to help better understand the subsurface. 

Understanding the subsurface 

Data from the observatory will help scientists understand the subsurface better, and how heat using warm water from abandoned mines could be used as a renewable energy source for homes and industry.  The team behind the facility suggest it will help decarbonise UK energy supply and achieve the country’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050. 

The cores from Glasgow being scanned at the British Geological Survey’s specialist facility (McDaid/PA)

Addressing the risks 

One problem with the take up of geothermal has been the risk involved: 

  • uncertainty over the resource available 
  • high initial costs 
  • long-term investments. 

The UK Geoenergy Observatories will address those risks by providing fundamental information about the subsurface. 

Dr Karen Hanghoj, executive director of the British Geological Survey, said: “The Glasgow Observatory builds on the city’s industrial past. 

“The data from Glasgow’s abandoned mines will help us understand the processes and impacts of a mine water heat source and potential heat store as a sustainable way of heating homes and businesses in our cities.

While today is the official opening, the Glasgow Observatory has been supplying scientists with open access data since drilling began in 2018. There is no other publicly-funded observatory like this in the world, and it is very fitting that it is located in Glasgow, which will host Cop26 next year.”