Drilling will start this week to build the UK’s first geothermal electricity plant, at the United Downs Industrial Estate near St Day.

The aim of the initiative is to demonstrate the potential of the geothermal resource in the UK to produce electricity and renewable heat. The plant will supply up to 3 MWe (Mega Watt electrical) of electricity which is enough energy to power 3,000 homes.

The global engineering consultancy, Arup, has signed an agreement to purchase renewable energy guarantee of origin certificates (REGOs) from GEL equating to 9,000MWh/year. The REGO scheme is a UK Government sponsored scheme which enables companies to secure green energy for their operations. The deal will allow the firm to supply zero carbon electricity to all of its offices in the UK.

Two deep geothermal wells will be drilled into the granitic rock beneath the site, the deepest of which will reach a ground-breaking 4.5 kilometres. Water will be pumped from the deepest well at a temperature of approximately 190C, fed through a heat exchanger at the surface and then re-injected into the ground to pick up more heat from the rocks in a continuous cycle. The extracted heat will be converted into electricity and supplied to the National Grid.

Dr Ryan Law, MD of Geothermal Engineering Ltd, said: “The largely untapped geothermal resources in the UK have the potential to deliver up to 20% of the UK’s electricity and heat energy needs in a reliable and sustainable way.

“As coal fired power stations are switched off, the need for renewable, baseload energy can only increase. It is incredibly exciting to see this pioneering project getting off the ground in what we hope will be the start of many similar initiatives across the UK.”

Sarah Newton, MP for Truro and Falmouth, said: “I am delighted that the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project is now underway and bringing investment into my constituency. The UDDGP is the UKs first deep geothermal power project and, as such, will help trigger further development of a renewable energy source beneath our feet that is available 24/7 and offers both electricity and heat.

“Renewable heat sources will be vital for decarbonising our energy systems and I look forward to seeing many more of these types of projects in Cornwall and beyond.”

The project has received approximately £18 million in funding, including £10.6 million from the European Regional Development Fund, £2.4 million from Cornwall Council, £5 million from private investors through Abundance Capital. Delivery partners for this project include GeoScience Ltd, The British Geological Survey, and the University of Plymouth Sustainable Earth Institute.

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