The Eden Project and EGS Energy Ltd have secured £16.8m funding to drill the first well for their geothermal heat and power project
After a ten-year campaign to bring the clean, green technology to Cornwall, the partners said that the £16.8m in funding will enable them to start drilling on the geothermal heat and power project next summer.
Eden co-founder Sir Tim Smit said that securing funds and thereby the chance to spark an energy revolution amounts to 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. The sun can provide massive solar power and the wind has been harnessed by humankind for thousands of years but because both are intermittent and battery technology cannot yet store all we need there is a gap.
“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 £16.8m sum has been 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. Cornwall Council has put in £1.4m. Institutional investors have contributed the remaining £5.5m.
The funding will pay for the first phase of the geothermal heat and power 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 geothermal heat and power for the local area.
To deliver the plan, a new company, Eden Geothermal Limited (EGL) has been formed. The EGL shareholders are:
- Eden Project Limited, the world-renowned educational charity and visitor attraction.
- EGS Energy Limited, a leading geothermal development and consultancy group with experience on commercial scale projects in Cornwall and around the world.
- BESTEC (UK) Limited, which is affiliated with BESTEC GmbH, the specialist geothermal developer and drilling advisor.
Sir Tim said: “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.”
Guy Macpherson-Grant, managing director of EGS Energy, commented: “It is exciting that this geothermal development is under way. The geology in the county is particularly well-suited for cost-efficient heat and power generation, and St Austell benefits from particularly high heat flows.”
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.
“We look forward to being able to demonstrate the advantages of the technology to Eden’s one million visitors a year and encourage greater investment.”
Richard Day, non-executive chairman of Eden Geothermal Limited, said: “The support we have received from all our stakeholders will allow us to prove the resource in this part of Cornwall. Alongside the other geothermal project in Cornwall at United Downs, we are looking to stimulate a whole new Green Tech industrial cluster in Cornwall, on the back of the centuries of mining heritage in the county.”
Jake Berry, coastal communities and local growth minister, added: “The Eden Project is not only a must-see tourist attraction bringing visitors from all corners of the globe to Cornwall, but also an innovator at the very forefront of renewable energy development.
“Thanks to £9.9m 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.”
Dr Robin Shail, senior lecturer in Geology at the University of Exeter, said: “Cornwall is rapidly re-establishing itself as the UK centre for deep geothermal energy and we’re delighted to be involved in this major project in which we will contribute towards achieving research objectives and training of the next generation of scientists and engineers to work in this emerging sector.”
A video of Sir Tim Smit talking about Eden’s geothermal plans is available at https://youtu.be/CrzGStYHh08.