UK’s first geothermal power plant

Cornwall Council has granted planning permission for the development of the UK’s first commercial deep geothermal power plant, near Redruth in Cornwall. Developed by British company Geothermal Engineering Ltd, the plant will provide both renewable heat for the local area, and renewable electricity, which will be fed into the National Grid. The plant is expected to be fully operational in 2013. The announcement marks a major milestone in the development of geothermal energy in the UK.

The plant is to be built on a brownfield site within an existing industrial estate. Work will begin in early 2011 to drill 4.5km into the ground to access rocks at temperatures of approximately 200°C. This will be the deepest on-shore well in the UK. The plant will provide up to 55MW of renewable heat energy for the local community, and 10MW of electricity. 55MW of heat is the equivalent of heating 20 schools for a year, while 10MW of electricity is enough power for 20,000 homes.

Professor Frances Wall, head of the nearby Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, says: “Cornwall has a strong mining heritage due to its wealth of natural resources, and it is great to see this heritage is being continued through geothermal development. The Camborne School of Mines has been involved in deep geothermal research for decades so to see a commercial project coming to fruition is immensely satisfying. Geothermal has significant potential in the UK and the region stands to benefit significantly from this development in terms of being at the forefront of geothermal exploration.”

Ryan Law, Managing Director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd and chair of the Renewable Energy Association’s Deep Geothermal Group, says: “With the development of our plant we want to make deep geothermal energy a significant contributor to the UK’s energy portfolio. Not only can we contribute renewable, continuous power to the grid, we also want to change the way the UK meets its heat demands by offering energy-efficient, decentralised heat. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has already estimated that deep geothermal technology could supply between one and five GW of baseload, renewable electricity by 2030.”

Talking of the broader benefits, he continued: “Supporting the development of geothermal energy can aid local regeneration by attracting businesses and companies that are able to use the renewable heat. In addition, it will help to develop the UK’s geothermal expertise and skills that will allow us to compete internationally as the geothermal industry grows across the world. Nonetheless, it is only through commitment and support from government that the further private investment which is needed to fully exploit the UK’s geothermal potential will be raised.”

Geothermal Engineering Ltd is currently pursuing additional funding options with industry partners and the European Regional Development Fund. The company was awarded £1.475 million in funding by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in December 2009.

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