Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 16:00

The news that funding is to be made available for the development of geothermal energy in Cornwall has been hailed as a major breakthrough by the Eden Project and its partner EGS Energy Ltd.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has just released a call for proposals for £10.6m of funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

Alongside Cornwall-based EGS Energy, the Eden Project has been actively campaigning for funding for its planned geothermal power plant on its site, a former China Clay quarry at Bodelva near St Austell. It would be the first of its kind in the UK.

There is already planning permission for the 4MW plant. Once built, this could supply all the power Eden and around 4,000 households need, plus heat for a local network for industrial and horticultural use. The total estimated project cost is around £39m for a two-well system and associated plant.

Speaking on behalf of Eden and EGS Energy, Eden Co-founder Sir Tim Smit said: “After campaigning for more than six years to develop a technology which we believe could revolutionise the UK renewable energy industry, we see DCLG’s announcement of the funding call as a hugely-significant breakthrough.

“Cornwall Council has also put its money where its mouth is by offering public match funding of up to £2.4m for the geothermal call, which is very welcome.

“We are very encouraged by this news and we will now be preparing our bid to develop geothermal for Cornwall and the UK.”

Unlike other renewable energy sources, geothermal electricity plants run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With a very small surface footprint and buildings no more than 10m (30ft) tall, with no fuel supply issues, they can be run full tilt, except for a maintenance shut down every year. This means that geothermal power plants have the highest capacity of any energy technology, typically running 93 per cent of the time.

When fully developed, the Eden plant would be made up of two boreholes, driven around 4.5km into the granite beneath Eden. The rock at that depth is expected to be about 180-190°C. Water injected down the first borehole would be returned to the surface at around 185°C via the second borehole. The superheated water would be used for direct heat use and to generate electricity before being returned to the injection borehole.