£10M hot rocks investment

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Details of a £10.6 million investment to develop geothermal energy near Redruth have been announced.

The money, from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will enable a revolutionary geothermal venture at United Downs, and is believed to the first of its kind in the UK.

The United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project will explore the geothermal resources at depth and hopes to use the energy to drive a demonstration power plant supplying electricity to the local grid. The project will be led by Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL).

Geothermal energy is heat from the earth. The granite that lies beneath Cornwall is heat-producing and the rocks here are hotter than anywhere else in the UK, making it the best place to extract energy for both heat and power.

GEL project manager, Peter Ledingham, said: “Cornwall has the best geothermal resources in the country but we have yet to press home our competitive advantage.

“By drilling and testing the deep wells at United Downs, we hope to prove the quality of the resource and demonstrate the viability of generating renewable electricity from it. The project therefore offers significant potential for economic growth in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, building on its reputation as a ‘green and marine’ region.”

Julian German, Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council, added: “I am very excited about this announcement. This is a great opportunity to utilise the unique geology we have in Cornwall and presents a chance to lead a new emerging sector.

“Deep geothermal heat and energy could be a game changer for energy costs to both residents and businesses and help us eliminate fuel poverty in Cornwall.”

The drilling will begin in early 2018 and take about six months. Testing the wells, characterising the geothermal system and installing the power plant will take a further 18 months, with a target commissioning date in early 2020.

If this pilot project is a success, it will be a catalyst for further investment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with the potential to develop a new geothermal industry in the county.