Newcastle 'was tropical paradise'
Newcastle was once a tropical paradise similar to the islands in the Bahamas, it has been disclosed.
Scientists from Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability drilling deep beneath the city have discovered fossil evidence of exotic shells and coral.
The 300-million year old rocks were extracted from limestone 1,000 feet below the ground during a £900,000 green energy project, funded by the Newcastle Science City partnership and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, to harness geothermal power from the earth's crust.
Engineers watched a plume of steam gush from a borehole in Newcastle City centre when the drilling reached its target depth at dawn on Monday. The renewable resource will be used to heat hundreds of homes and provide power to buildings near St James' Park.
The institute director professor Paul Younger said: "We are trying to harness what really is about the lowest carbon form of energy there is.
"Today we've hit very hot water, which is very good news for us. The more rapidly the temperature of the water increases with depth, the better. It's already at 50% higher than the UK average for that depth, which gives us a lot of options.
"There isn't really a limit to what we might gain from this. There is a huge volume of hot water down there; we could go on adding boreholes to run systems alongside this wherever there is the opportunity."
The borehole on the site of the former Newcastle Brewery has reached a depth of 2,000m (6,562ft). Energy will be extracted from hot water being pumped out at a temperature of about 80C (176F).
Prof 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."
Laura Armstrong, one of Newcastle University's geology students who has been examining the fossils, told the BBC: "It is one of the most exciting things we've found. These shells and corals suggest that Newcastle was once a tropical environment, like offshore Bahamas."