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Cornwall geothermal potential

Cornwall has the greatest potential in the UK for generating heat and electricity from the heat contained in its deep lying rocks (British Geological Survey)

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Drilling to begin for Cornwall geothermal power plant in 2011

Ecologist

16th August, 2010

Planning approval for attempts at the first commercial geothermal power plant in Cornwall could see renewable heat and electricity being generated as early as 2013

The UK could soon have its first commercial geothermal power plant after an exploratory drilling project was granted local planning permission in Cornwall.

Engineers will begin drilling a 4.5km deep borehole early next year at a site near Redruth, with a further site at the Eden Project still awaiting approval.

The drilling is the first sign of an emerging geothermal power sector in the UK, which the Government hopes could provide between one and five gigawatts (GW) of renewable electricity by 2030. Germany already has an estimated 150 geothermal power plant projects in the pipeline.

Geothermal energy involves pumping water up to 5km underground where it is heated by hot rocks before being pumped back up to the surface to either be converted into electricity or used as a source of renewable heat. In contrast to wind power, geothermal is also able to operate steadily 24 hours a day.

Cornwall's big potential

Most suitable sites for geothermal power are expected to be found in Cornwall, where extensive research in the 1970s and 80s found significant opportunities within the county's granite bedrock.

The Department for Energy and Climate has backed both projects with more than £2 million in funding in a bid to kick-start the sector.

If successful in its exploratory drilling, the Redruth project would produce 10 megawatts (MW) of electricity and 55MW of renewable heat for the local community.

Ryan Law, managing director of the company behind the project Geothermal Engineering Ltd, said the electricity it could produce over the course of a year was equivalent to 21 wind turbines.

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