Up to 6,000 homes and businesses in Manchester could be heated using geothermal energy, under proposals by developer GT Energy.

Ahead of applying for planning permission the firm has revealed its proposals to drill down to a thermal spring two miles below the city and install a network of pipes to distribute the naturally heated 100°C water.

If approved, the scheme would be one of the largest of its type in the UK.

The news followed an announcement that Sainsbury’s is to install geothermal technologies at up to 100 of its superstores as part of its plans to cut carbon emissions from its operations by 30% against 2005 levels by 2020.

The retailer has signed contracts with energy company E.ON and UK-based experts Geothermal International to install the technology, following a successful pilot at its Crayford store in London.

Fitted in 2010, the ground-source heat pump draws heat from 200m below the Earth’s surface and supplies the store with 30% of its energy.