Green Light for UK’s First Geothermal Power Plant
Lying 5000 metres below the unassuming Cornish town of Redruth are the granite generators of the UK’s first geothermal power plant. Water pumped down to the 170°C bedrock will return as rapidly expanding steam and drive generators capable of producing up to 10 MW of base load electricity to the National Grid and up to 55 MW of renewable heat for local use.
The planning permission from Cornwall Council came just last week and will allow British company Geothermal Engineering to start its drilling in early 2011, with power production starting in 2013. The company, which was awarded £1.475m from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in December last year, must raise finance to meet the £40m development cost.
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. Cornwall has very hot granites and we believe it has significant potential.”
The £40m plant could produce enough energy to heat 20 schools and produce power for 20,000 homes – although each plant has a 25-year lifespan before the rocks cool.
The project is the first sign of an emerging geothermal power sector in the UK, which the DECC hopes could provide between one and five gigawatts (GW) of renewable electricity by 2030. Germany already has an estimated 150 geothermal power plant projects in the pipeline.