Eden Project bids to power homes and ‘biomes’ with geothermal power

A tropical fish farm, medical facility and computer servers could be powered by "hot rocks" underneath the Eden project if plans to create one of the UK's only geothermal plants get underway.

The visitor attraction is bidding for part of a £12m EU fund awarded to Cornwall, after it said the government had turned down requests to match fund the £37m project. The three-four megawatt (MW) plant’s backers at Eden said it would take three years to build but generate enough clean heat and electricity to power the site, as well as 4,000 homes via the national grid.

Energy would be generated by pumping heated water up from granite hot rocks three miles underground through 25cm-wide bore holes. The city of Southampton has the UK’s only significant geothermal plant, which powers homes and offices.

Fish such as catfish, striped bass and prawns could be tended in giant tanks heated by geothermal energy, as one of a number of businesses in a “heat park” on site that would source their energy from the plant. Other businesses under consideration include a medical centre to treat patients with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, a laundry service for local hotels, cloud computing servers, food processing facilities and greenhouses to grow fruit, salad and vegetables.

Research suggests homegrown geothermal projects could provide up to one-fifth of the country’s power. David Cameron recently paid a visit to Iceland, where he discussed plans to source UK energy from the country’s volcanoes. The project would require the construction of a multi-million pound 750-mile underwater electricity cable, the longest in the world.

Augusta Grand, head of policy at the Eden project told the Guardian: “The government has clearly understood the benefits of geothermal power but we would contest that, because we have our own volcanoes, it would be more sensible to support the genesis of an industry over here especially when you’re talking about a cable under some of the worst sea in the world.”

Planning permission for the Eden Project plant was granted several years ago, but the project has suffered financial setbacks since the recession.

Grand added: “The UK has an enormous legacy of drilling industries. Given the fact that the North sea oil and gas is now running out the government is missing an enormous trick in not perceiving that this would be a good follow-on and a great opportunity for our oil and gas industries to look at an industry that they would really understand. It’s incredibly important for the UK to have a secure energy future.”

A second geothermal project in Redruth in Cornwall has received planning permission and is also bidding for funds.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We commissioned a review into the potential for geothermal power generation in the UK in 2013, which concluded that providing further support would not represent value for money for taxpayers. However, we recognise that deep geothermal could have a part to play in the UK’s energy mix going forward, but for direct heat use, rather than power generation.”

Emma Howard

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian environment network


Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie