It is a small hole in the East End of Glasgow, but it has the potential to make the area the world centre for research into geothermal energy.

The first hole, which was drilled yesterday just across the road from Celtic Park, is part of a project with so much research potential that scientists, academics and businesses from all over the world will be looking to Glasgow to inform the energy projects of tomorrow.

The 12 boreholes across  the city will record data as part of the UK Geoenergy Observatories (UKGEOS) project and if successful could see parts of the city being heated from old mine workings and the technology to be exported to other cities across the globe.

The £31 million project will record information about the rocks to an unprecedented level, with some going down almost 200 metres into the ground.
The East End sits on the old mines which contain warm water, which have the potential to be used to heat homes and businesses in the area.

This data will then be shared for free to anyone who wants to access it, meaning students, academics, scientists, and businessmen across the world can access this data and use it to inform their own research and innovations.

Zoe Shipton, professor of geological engineering at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Big science questions need big pieces of kit. Physicists have their CERN (home of the Large Hadron Collider) and we have our UKGEOS and this is going to be a laboratory with a 15-year design life.

“We can rarely carry out a controlled experiment in the way that chemists and physicists are able to do. This is what UKGEOS will allow us to do – we’re going to characterise a cubic kilometre of rock in Glasgow and know the characteristics of the rock to an incredible degree.

“We’ll have sensors down those boreholes that listen to the earth and hear the changes that happen where we have earthquakes. This sensor going just across the road will be able to hear earthquakes from across the planet, and ones nearerby as the seasons change – or where somebody scores at Celtic Park.

“If we are going to meet the demands of the Paris Treaty and decrease or reliance on fossil fuels and increase the ability of ourselves to power our homes and heat our homes, and run our economy on renewable energy, we need to make it possible for businesses to come in.”

Apart from using hot water from the earth to heat people’s homes, geological research from this site may have many more applications for creating a greener way of living.

David Manning, professor of soil science at Newcastle Universitym, said: “In this country we’ve been mining for over 2,000 years, even before the Romans in Cornwall we were trading tin to the Phoenicians. We need to take all that knowledge from oil and gas and take it across to geothermal so that we can run with that given it’s carbon free. 

“Hot water coming from the inside of the earth can be used to heat people’s houses. We’re also interested in energy storage – what came up can come down, so it is possible for us to put heat from the surface into underground stores and take it back out again when we need it in winter. Hot summers can be captured, put underground and taken out again."

As well as asking the big scientific questions, which could revolutionise the way we think about heating or homes and storing energy, the boreholes will also be exploring the possibility of heating the local area of the East End and Clyde Gateway.

Although renewable energy is good at generating electricity, heat is more difficult to transport and store. Last year Scotland produced only six per cent of its heat from renewable sources, compared to 68% of its electricity.

Ian Manson, chief executive of Clyde Gateway, said: “The East End has a history of great industry and to regenerate the area we need to look at the industries of the future. We hope this project will create a greater focus on renewables and bring engineering companies and jobs to the area.

“We’ve got the target of achieving 20,000 jobs for this area, we’ve already attracted 5,000 – some of which are in renewables. 

“We’re looking at the low hundreds, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be aiming at the thousands for jobs in this area.”