Monday, June 1, 2009 - 12:13

The Eden Project, the world-renowned visitor attraction and environmental education centre, announces today that it has entered into a partnership arrangement with EGS Energy Limited, a leading UK engineered geothermal system energy developer.

The partnership is for EGS Energy and Eden to establish an engineered geothermal system power plant from which Eden can take the electricity and heat to power the Eden site in an old clay quarry at Bodelva, near St Austell, Cornwall.

The partners believe that with the vast quantity of geothermal energy stored in the rocks below Cornwall, the county could eventually provide up to 10 per cent of the UK's entire electricity requirements.

EGS Energy, a company based in Penzance, Cornwall, and Eden will now work together to obtain consent for a site and to establish the power plant, in what would be the first installation of its type in the UK.

The power plant at Eden would consist of a two borehole system – one injection well and one production well, both around 3-4km deep. Water would be circulated between the bottoms of the two wells, with it being heated by the hot rocks in the process and returning to the surface at approximately 150ºC. There it would drive a binary turbine to create electricity, at a planned capacity of 3MWe. It is intended that further development of the power plant would see the hot water being used for other purposes such as community heating, before it is returned into the reservoir.

The partnership process began this month and is expected that it would be completed, the boreholes drilled and the power plant producing power, by 2012. Engineered geothermal system technology has developed apace in recent years, with much of the key science and know-how having been developed in Cornwall in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the potential for exploiting what is a vast, renewable source of energy deep in the granite is only now becoming appreciated. The skills of the EGS Energy board have been honed over a total of more than 70 years of working with reservoirs deep in granite rocks and circulating water through them. One of EGS Energy’s partners, BESTEC GmbH, operates a commercial plant in Landau, Germany, with a capacity of up to 3.8MWe.

The EGS Energy power plant could open up the holy grail of renewable energy: a secure, consistent, carbon neutral source of both heat and power. The energy would be 100 per cent controllable and on an industrial scale. Above all, compared to other clean technologies, it has a small footprint above ground, and since it consists of a closed loop system its potential negative environmental impact is small.

Eden has already consulted its Neighbourhood Forum about the proposal and the initial response from the forum has been favourable. Tim Smit, Chief executive of The Eden Project, said “We are excited to be partnering with EGS Energy in this project. We will be working closely with their team to bring to reality this pioneering power plant. Powering The Eden Project site from a renewable source of energy is clearly a priority for us and we are very pleased to have the opportunity to bring our unique vision and environmental skills to the project alongside EGS Energy’s experience and skills in engineering geothermal systems.”

Roy Baria, Technical Director of EGS Energy Limited, was Deputy Project Director at the Rosemanowes “Hot Rocks” project in Cornwall, the UK’s pioneering deep geothermal programme, before joining the European EGS geothermal programme at Soultz-sous-Forêts, France, as Chief Scientist and project coordinator, a role he held until 2005. Over that period, the programme drilled and hydraulically stimulated a number of deep (5,000m) hot (200°C) wells, and established underground circulation. Roy said “We are lucky to have found in The Eden Project the perfect partner to take engineered geothermal systems to commercial reality from academic exercise, here in the UK where many of the skills that we bring to bear originated. With the geology in the vicinity of The Eden Project being ideal for creating our power plant and its reservoir, we would not only expect to be able to supply virtually all of the Eden Project’s power and heat requirements but generate surplus power that could be fed into the grid to help meet the governments CO2 reduction and renewable generation targets.”