Engineers have started drilling a hole deep below Newcastle in the search for a renewable energy source.
The Newcastle and Durham Universities team plans to sink a hole 2,000m (6,562ft) below the planned Science Central site, in the city centre.
Scientists hope the £900,000 project will result in water at a temperature of about 80C (176F) being pumped out.
The plan is the water could be used to heat the site and surrounding city centre buildings.
The project, which started on Wednesday, is expected to last six months with the team hoping to pump out the first hot water in June.
Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability director Professor Paul Younger said: "Our aim is to rise to the challenge of putting a novel form of deep geothermal energy at the very heart of city centre regeneration.
"It's an incredibly exciting project. If we're right and we pump up water at such elevated temperatures, it would mean a fully renewable energy supply for a large part of the city centre."
The project is funded by the Newcastle Science City Partnership and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Managers at the Eldon Square Shopping Centre said they were interested in getting involved in the project if it was successful.
General manager Phil Steele said: "We can now look forward optimistically to using deep geothermal energy to supply part or all of our future energy needs and we look forward to working with Newcastle University to develop this major scientific enterprise for the city."
The Newcastle project is similar to one already operating in Southampton, where underground hot water is used along with oil and natural gas for a combined heat and power network.
- 23 December 2010
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