West Holborn Renewable Energy Network (WHREN)


The West Holborn Renewable Energy Network (WHREN) project is the Council's most ambitious energy scheme to date.

It aims to generate renewable energy by using heat from abandoned flooded mines and the River Tyne.

The network could provide renewable energy to Council-owned and other public sector buildings in South Shields.

It is anticipated that the total cost of the scheme will exceed £20m, however, the Council is working with Government departments to maximise any external funding opportunities.


The scheme is a major component in the Council's drive towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

It has the potential to:

  • save 2,436 tonnes of carbon a year
  • cut annual carbon emissions by 22 percent
  • save more than £800k a year

How it would work

The scheme would use a combination of technologies:

  • Solar panels, both floating and mounted on an energy centre, would provide much of the electricity to power water sourced heat pumps.
  • Heat pumps would extract heat from water taken from abandoned flooded mines and the River Tyne, converting it into energy in the form of hot water. This hot water would be used to heat buildings in a network of insulated pipes.
  • Gas produced from wood and green waste would also be converted into 100 percent renewable fuel for the energy centre.


Although the overall scheme is still in the development phase, the Council has already been successful in attracting over £4million Government funding for initial enabling works, which include the drilling of boreholes to extract the minewater.

Timescales and progress

Phase 1 of the project is now complete.

The Council applied for funding for phase 2 of the project but unfortunately this was unsuccessful.

We are continuing to:

  • evaluate the options for the use of the wells
  • evaluate the use of the wells against other renewable technologies and come up with a design solution that will meet the funding metrics to deliver a successful heat network

The well development works will be incorporated within the enabling works before the energy centre is built.

The design of the Holborn site will include an Energy Centre and Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy Technologies when completed.

The Council will be making a further funding application for the next phase of the project, including detailed design and construction in June 2024.

If the funding application is successful, then the heat network will be operational in December 2027.

Project completion:

It is expected that the overall project will be completed in Spring 2028 (subject to funding and planning).


Heavy machinery and drilling equipment is in use.

There will be an increase in noise levels during the drilling.

Our contractor has measures in place to minimise the impact of this for those living nearby.

The drilling works have been planned according to health and safety regulations.

Regular updates will be posted on the site notice board.

Future phases

Following the drilling works, and subject to funding and planning permission, Phase 2 will see the development of an energy centre and pipe distribution network.

Overall, the scheme is likely to combine:

  • a mine water heat pump
  • a combined heat and power (CHP) back-up system
  • solar panels
  • a private wire electrical network with storage battery
  • wood gasification plant

Complaints and updates

If you have any questions about the works call the Customer Contact Centre on 0191 427 7000.

News and updates

Progress Continues on Carbon-Cutting Schemes - 17 March 2023

Centre's Design Revealed in Striking Images and Footage - 8 November 2022

Council has Designs on Flagship Renewable Energy Centre - 21 March 2022

First Phase of Major Carbon-Cutting Scheme Underway - 20 May 2021