Cornwall Council granted planning permission for the development of the UK’s first commercial deep geothermal power plant, near Redruth in the county last week.

The site will be developed by British company Geothermal Engineering and the plant will provide both renewable heat for the local area, and renewable electricity, which will be fed into the National Grid.

The plant is to be built on a brownfield site within an existing industrial estate, with work due to begin in early 2011 to drill 4.5 kilometres into the ground to access rocks at temperatures of approximately 200 degrees Celsius.

This will be the deepest on-shore well in the UK. The plant will provide up to 55 MW of renewable heat energy for the local community, and 10 MW of electricity.

55 MW of heat is the equivalent of heating 20 schools for a year, while 10 MW of electricity is enough power for 20,000 homes.

Managing director of Geothermal Engineering, Ryan Law, said: “With the development of our plant we want to make deep geothermal energy a significant contributor to the UK’s energy portfolio.

“Not only can we contribute renewable, continuous power to the grid, we also want to change the way the UK meets its heat demands by offering energy-efficient, decentralised heat.

“The Department of Energy and Climate Change has already estimated that deep geothermal technology could supply between one and five GW of baseload, renewable electricity by 2030.”

The company was awarded £1.475 million in funding by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in December 2009 and the plant is expected to be operational by 2013.

Luke Walsh

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