Eden Project secures £16,8 million for hot rocks plan

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Eden by Tamsyn Williams

The Eden Project and EGS Energy Limited announced this week that funding has finally been secured 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 £16.8 million marks the start of drilling on Eden’s site next summer.

“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”, Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project, said.

“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 £16,8 million 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 beneath the Eden site.

The first well will initially supply a district heating system for Eden’s Biomes, offices and greenhouses. This is followed by 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.

“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”, Sir Smit added.

“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.”

To deliver the plan, a new company, Eden Geothermal Limited (EGL) has been formed. The EGL shareholders are:

  • Eden Project Limited, the educational charity and visitor attraction.
  • EGS Energy Limited, a geothermal development and consultancy group.
  • BESTEC (UK) Limited, affiliated with BESTEC GmbH, the specialist geothermal developer and drilling adviser.

Guy Macpherson-Grant, Managing Director of EGS Energy, added: “It is exciting that this geothermal development is underway. 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.”

The University of Exeter will also be providing academic and research services to the project.

Dr Robin Shail, Senior Lecturer in Geology, commented: “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.”

The £16.8 million 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 EU (ERDF) funding is administered by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Bob Egerton, Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for culture, planning and economy, stated: “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.

“Geothermal energy promotes Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as a ‘clean growth’ region and shows that our approach to the Government’s Industrial Strategy for Cornwall is shaped around the transition to an economy that is powered by clean energy. I hope that this focus on clean energy will expand to the wider south west and to the UK as a whole. This step change will be absolutely necessary if we are to meet our ambitions for tackling the climate emergency both locally and nationally.”