Emissions & Environment, Europe, Renewables, Strategic Development

Full steam ahead for Eden’s £16.8m hot rocks plan

Bosses at British climate and environment visitor attraction The Eden Project have announced that funding has finally been secured to drill the first well for a pioneering geothermal heat and power project.

After a ten-year campaign to bring the technology to the project in Cornwall, England, Eden and its partner, EGS Energy, said that the £16.8m ($21m) in funding will enable them to start drilling next summer.

Eden co-founder Sir Tim Smit believes that securing funds is the biggest leap forward for Eden since it opened in a former clay quarry near St Austell in 2001.

Sir Tim said: “Since we began, Eden has had a dream that the world should be powered by renewable energy… We believe the answer lies beneath our feet in the heat underground that can be accessed by drilling technology that pumps water towards the centre of the earth and brings it back up superheated to provide us with heat and electricity.

“The missing piece of the jigsaw in a 24/7 clean renewable energy future is this baseload. Now we have the green light and the funding to start drilling we are determined to make this technology work. And we want to work with others all over the world – sharing knowledge and encouraging the change as fast as is humanly possible.”

The funding was secured from a mixture of public and private sources. Cornwall’s final round of EU funding, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has contributed £9.9m ($12.45m). Cornwall Council has put in £1.4m ($1.76m). Institutional investors have contributed the remaining £5.5m ($7m).

The EU (ERDF) funding is administered by the UK Government’s Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The funding will pay for the first phase of the project – drilling one well, a research programme and a heat main, to prove the extent of the resource 4.5km down in the granite that lies beneath the Eden site.

This first well will initially supply a district heating system for Eden’s Biomes, offices and greenhouses. It will pave the way for the second phase – another 4.5km well and an electricity plant.

Completing the second phase will mean that Eden will be generating sufficient renewable energy to become carbon positive by 2023 as well as aiming to be able to provide heat and power for the local area.

To deliver the plan, a new company, Eden Geothermal Limited (EGL) has been formed. The EGL shareholders include Eden Project Limited, EGS Energy Limited and BESTEC (UK) Limited.

The EGS Energy team have significant experience and expertise, having been part of the Hot Dry Rocks geothermal programme in Cornwall in the 1980s, the follow-on EU programme in Soultz-sous-Forêts, France and the subsequent commercial power generating projects in Landau and Insheim, Germany, among others worldwide. The University of Exeter will be providing academic and research services to the project.

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Sir Tim stated: “Geothermal will be a game changer for Eden, Cornwall and the UK. The heat will be used for the Biomes, to grow food, as well as helping support the development of our long-awaited hotel.

“Once up and running, our plant will provide more than enough renewable electricity and heat for the whole site, as well as for the local area. We will be drilling for good energy rather than bad.”

Augusta Grand, director of Eden Geothermal Limited, who has led Eden’s geothermal project for the last seven years, said: “It is great that we’re now getting going on this project. Geothermal has huge potential to provide baseload heat and power on a very small surface footprint.”

The Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, Coastal Communities and Local Growth Minister, said: “Thanks to £9.9 million of Government funding, work can begin immediately on this exciting project which will unlock the rich geothermal resource beneath the site and allow the full untapped potential of renewable energy sources to be fully utilised.

“This will be essential in tackling climate change, exploring alternative energy sources and ensuring Cornwall can take full advantage of all the economic opportunities that lie ahead.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: “Cornwall’s unique geology enables geothermal energy to make a significant contribution to maintaining the Duchy’s clean energy credentials. It is great news that we have been able to secure funding for this scheme that fits well with the Eden Project’s vision. I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved locally in getting us to this position.”

Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for culture, planning and economy Bob Egerton said: “By providing strong support and investing in alternative forms of renewable energy, we are leading the way in making the most of Cornwall’s unique assets to benefit our residents and businesses as we work together to tackle the climate emergency.